After Hurricane Irma in September, tree limbs quickly piled up along streets throughout DeBary.
As residents’ complaints mounted about the debris, DeBary City Council members assembled, agreeing to act quickly to remove the debris and protect residents from public-safety threats.
The debris mostly vanished from River City roads about a month after Irma hit Central Florida in 2017.
Now the cost of Irma is coming into focus. That storm, along with expenses from Hurricane Matthew in 2016, cost DeBary taxpayers $1.8 million over two budget years, City Council members learned during a recent meeting.
Most of the cost -$1.5 million – came from Irma, said Finance Director Elizabeth Bauer.
The city’s annual budget is about $16 million.
DeBary hasn’t received any help from the Federal Emergency Management Agency for Irma or Matthew. But it continues to ask.
For budgeting purposes, the city is anticipating FEMA funds. It is conservatively estimating federal reimbursements between $932,000 and $14 million in the 2019 budget year. Some of that might come in during this budget year, Bauer said.
If the hurricanes had not happened, the city’s 2017 general fund would have closed with a $562,000 positive cash flow. Instead, it has a negative balance of $75,000, Bauer said.
Bauer also said the city is scaling back its mandatory reserve period from 150 days to 120 days because of the budget crunch.
“So you’re in a very, very strong position,” McLemore said.
However, he noted that he wants City Council members to chat at some point on ways DeBary can better prepare financially for future storms.
“A series of additional hurricanes at these cost levels, however, could seriously challenge the financial health of the City,” a city memo says.
Fire fees study
City auditors will provide more details about DeBary’s finances during a meeting in March, McLemore said.
The city routinely shifts money from reserves to the general fund to balance the budget.
Annual shortfalls of about $400,000 could grow by another $248,000 annually if Florida voters approve a property-tax exemption in November.
To help pay for public safety, City Council members authorized a $70,000 study in December for a possible fire-protection fee for residents and businesses.
The first phase of the study should be completed in about three to four months.
$140K approved for 3 projects
At the meeting on Jan. 17, City Council members also approved three projects with an estimated cost of $140,000.
City council members discussed these projects last year but delayed a decision because of financial concerns.
“These numbers are so small it doesn’t have that much impact in your budget or your reserves,” McLemore said.
City Council members agreed to spend $70,000 for three automobile-plate readers to help the Volusia County Sheriff’s Office to fight and solve crimes. Sheriff Mike Chitwood explained the technology at the meeting. He first proposed the request in June.
City Council also approved $45,000 to replace a broken-down, 11-year-old truck for the recreation department.
“It’s already been in the shop three times this year. We’re throwing money down a rat hole. We need to go ahead and replace it,” McLemore added.
Council members also agreed to spend $25,000 for a transportation plan to help DeBary better manage mobility issues related to growth.
McLemore said the study will save the city millions of dollars.
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