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At Flagler Beach Commission’s Goal-Setting, Grim Numbers, Limited Possibilities

| May 5, 2011

They only look relaxed. The numbers the Flagler Beach City Commission and its staff are facing are more stressful. (© FlaglerLive)

The Flagler Beach City Commission held a five-hour goal-setting session on Thursday. A clear, tangible goal that would affect residents directly: an attempt to capitalize more on Flagler Beach as a special events destination, and to raise more money through those events’ fees.

“Flagler Beach is the best bargain in town because if you go to Palm Coast, it’s going to cost you a lot more than if you do an event in Flagler Beach,” said Nancy Carlton, the consultant the commissioners chose to moderate the session (for $600, which covers the session itself and the subsequent report, a modest sum compared to the fees moderators generally cjharge for goal-setting sessions: the moderator the combined Flagler governments chose to moderate their economic development summit was more than $7,000 a day.)

The city is scrambling for new revenue because it’s facing a dire financial cliff. Acting City Manager Bruce Campbell briefed the commission on the consequences of the city’s property valuations falling 17 percent in the past year. That translates to a loss of $465,000 in property tax revenue, out of $2.3 million generated by property taxes this year. That’s a very large drop. (The general fund, which also generates dollars through fees and charges for service, stood at $4.9 million at the beginning of the year, including reserves.)

Last year, the drop in values cost the city $320,000 in property tax revenues. The city made that up by raising tax rates enough to generate the same amount of dollars. But if the city were to do that again this year, the property tax rate would have to increase a full millage point (that is, a full $1 per $1,000 in taxable value), from 4.2 mills to 5.2 mills.

That’s not including the losses incurred in the city’s Community Redevelopment Agency fund, the separate property tax generated through the CRA district–the downtown redevelopment district where all property taxes above a certain baseline are restricted, and reinvested, within that district. The CRA is losing $90,000. Last year the CRA generated $186,000. So the CRA is essentially losing half its revenue.

With those numbers in mind, the commissioners delved into their goal-setting. They couldn’t do very much, given the limitations.

As in previous years, the general goals aren’t changing: the focus is on economic development, growth management—not that there’s been much growth to speak of for the past couple of years—infrastructure, internal administrative issues and the usual fiscal matters: how to raise more money, how to spend less. The idea was to narrow the goals to what is realistic, as opposed to wished for, given the environment.

Looking at special event revenue was the closest thing to a solid idea, though the money generated from special events cannot make up for any substantial loss, assuming that there is new money to be found in special events: the competitive environment for such events between cities is only getting more intense, and there is such a thing as too many events, particularly if the clientele for the events is the same.

There are also potential cost savings. The administration summed up the cost-savings of the previous 12 months: eliminating the city manager’s car allowance saved $7,200. Eliminating a secretary for the city clerk saved $24,800. The water plant’s piggy-backing on Palm Coast contracts for chemicals and services saved an estimated $20,000. The city also counted as a savings the repair to a dump truck, as opposed to buying a new one, a $25,000 saving, although repairing older equipment is presumably standard procedure in government and business. But those one-time savings are difficult to replicate.

Consolidation of services, such as consolidating the city’s fire department or its police department, was not a point of discussion, let alone a goal, though there are rumbles elsewhere in the county about just such possibilities.

Commissioners are also interested in ranking all existing ordinances for review, a daunting process considering the amount of time a single ordinance review can take–in some cases, years. Commissioners would like to increase the number of commercial businesses beyond the core downtown area, including on State Road A1A. But they know their role is limited. “As much as it’s wonderful to say we want more businesses on A1A,” Commissioner Jane Mealy said, “we don’t have a lot of control over that.” They’re also interested in possibly hiring a legislative lobbyist, but that’s for a future discussion.

Commissioners would like to make a decision on the future of the Pier Restaurant. They’ve already approved a first reading of an ordinance that would seal a deal with restaurateur Ray Barshay, who’d take over the bedraggled restaurant, invest in it heavily and remake it into an American cuisine destination. Barshay would have a long-term lease. But the city has yet to approve the ordinance on a second and final reading.

No decisions were taken today. The point of the session was to brain-storm and prepare a list of goals. “All of this has to go back to have action plans done and really flush it out,” Carlton, who’ll be summarizing the plan over the next 24 hours, said.

The session was not held at the usual commission chambers at city hall, but in the conference room of the Flagler County Chamber of Commerce on State Road 100. Commissioners weren’t trying to evade their city so much as have a place where they could share the same , ample table with their staff. The session was held workshop-style, informally, with staffers and commissioners exchanging ideas in a much looser format than meetings conducted formally by Commission Chairman John Feind–who wore a Hawaiian shirt rather than his usual meeting suit and tie.

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10 Responses for “At Flagler Beach Commission’s Goal-Setting, Grim Numbers, Limited Possibilities”

  1. lawabidingcitizen says:

    News flash: Special events cost more than they bring in.

    Drop the CRA and special events and cut the people who run them.

    Let Flagler Beach go back to being the town that time forgot.

  2. John Smith says:

    Yep there you go. The second paragraph says it all. Bring your parties to Flagler Beach because Gillian (sitting on some books) can get you in for little or no cost. Let the city pay for it. Thats right times are tough right now, lets QUIT SPENDING MONEY ON THE FIRST FRIDAYS AND ANY OTHER PARTY GILLIAN WANTS TO PUT ON TILL THINGS GET BETTER INSTEAD OF CUTTING CITY WIDE SERVICES.
    The county is in as bad as shape as the cities so they can not afford to take over anything, so that crap that is being spread about the FD and PD needs to stop as it will bring the rath of the citizens down on that commission like they have never seen.

  3. palmcoaster says:

    Other than pointing at the fact that an event will cost more in Palm Coast than in Flagler Beach, why instead don’t propose to work events together. After all Palm Coasters go to the beach mostly in Flagler Beach and eateries like Blue, Finn’s, Golden Lion, Snack Jacks, The Pier, C Side Grill and others all the time. Palm Coasters do not have a beach front except the small Jungle Hut park one, surrounded by private exclusive condos. So then we go to Flagler Beach where we can mix up with the crowds other than being looked over the shoulder. Unless we jump in our boat, if we have one, and go to Matanzas Inlet, there is no beach in Palm Coast. We will achieve more financial benefit by joining efforts to attract tourism dollars thru well organized events than single out different rates. Lately the efforts shown to attract more sports and artistic gatherings have shown lot of improvements, more revenue and plenty of positive local exposure.
    Keep it up! We do have an undiscovered local paradise wether is Flagler Beach,Palm Coast or any of the other Flagler County locations, that needs to be introduced to those small business owners, still lingering in the frozen states. Only if we want, to lower our unemployment rate and keep our taxes low as well.

  4. PalmCoastPioneers says:

    ‘…Palm Coast will be neither a “sudden city’ nor an ‘instant’ one but will grow in accordance with a pre-planned program, no matter whether it flourishes twenty, thirty, or forty years from now. Palm Coast is a strip of land thirty miles long at its longest, ten miles wide at its widest, covering approximately 160 square miles. It is a fact that under the controls we will institute, despite its being larger in extent than Detroit or Philadelphia, it will have a density of say, Beverly Hills, California. But more on this later. Palm Coast has about six miles of ocean front, approximately twenty miles on the Intracoastal Waterway, and will have significant man made water areas. Again, these will be reviewed in the main body of the text.
    Now to a brief description of the terrain. Like other areas along the east coast of Florida, the property was formed primarily by sand dunes that have been build up by the interaction of winds, waves, tidal cycles, and ocean currents. This continued accretion of land as a repetitive process has caused the creation of lagoons between the new dune and the existing land mass. It is from these lagoon that the present salt water lagoons and marshlands evolved….’
    Page 129

    * FR:
    An Approach to a New City: Palm Coast,
    Dr. Norman Young and Dr. Stanley Dea.
    ( Reprinted from Environmental Affairs, Volume2, Number 1, Spring, 1972)

  5. John Smith says:

    When the 1st Friday parties cost more to the city for a few of the stores around city hall then that needs to stop. The people are still going to come to eat at the eateries and still spend there time here. Times are going to be tough for all this year so all should be willing to try and work through it. Does not make any sense to have to cut some city service employees so the city can have someones dreamed up party or a 1st friday. Times will get better then bring them back but now they need to stop.

  6. curious says:

    You are all missing the point. Closing the bridge will not support services in the City, businesses and commercial property will. Here we go again… Lets move backward instead of forward. There is no leadership in Flagler Beach and until there is a REAL Manager, nothing will get better. Tom Gillin is doing what he is told and then will suffer the consequenes for doing so. The entire City staff wants what is best for the City, but idiots out there seek to create more turmoil and BS and speak out their noses. You cannot have services without businesses that are sustained by patrons. Most FB residents shop elsewhere, and then cry because taxes are going up. You want services and low taxes, support your local businesses and get off the negativity. We are not a sleepy little town anymore, we are a tourist destinationand must bein order to survive: and if you do not like it, MOVE. Campbell needs to be the first to move, then Settle and Carney. The jury is still out on Shupe…… he may wake up.

    Grow up Flagler Beach!!!! Commission, get some guts and do what is right. Get a REAL MANAGER!!!!!!!

  7. John Smith says:

    I am NOT saying close the bridge, bring on the businesses and commercial property lets annex and grow a bigger tax base not shut it down at the current city limits we are running out of room here in town to build a house so it is time to expand before Palm coast takes everything to the city limits… I am Saying for the city to quit wasting the money on 1st Fridays for awhile until things get better. Paying overtime to Police Officers and other city employees to stand up there at the party is ridiculous. The parties are nice but lets get real, not at this time when cuts are inevitable to the city services. I want the services I do not care about the taxes, It takes the TAXES to run the city and if thats where you want to live thats what you have to pay. If taxes need to be raised then so be it for now later on in the future when things turn around and they will they can lower them. And like you said curious if you do not like it leave.You all can not live for free in todays world. And I agree about Campbell.

  8. palmcoaster says:

    I went for the first time to the First Friday Party….was nice. I was told there that is totally funded by the local businesses and the police cruiser and officer standing there didn’t incurred and additional cost. Now I read here a different story. What is the real one. Are FB taxpayers funds financing it or not? My question to the FB commissioners. Hope I read a reply.

  9. Bigfoot says:

    Flagler Beach has the biggest “special event” of all – the ocean and the beaches, which are FREE to the public. And yet we want to push additional events, also free to the public, such as First Fridays. Can any city experts tell us who pays for what at these city sponsored events? Are they just for the benefit of a few downtown merchants and the recreation director? Would like to have the STRAIGHT story from our commissioners, city staff, or whomever can provide it.

    We know the Pier Restaurant and the pier, itself, will be losers for YEARS.

  10. John Smith says:

    PC, it was nice. Who put up the tent, and the band stand, and who did all the white tables belong to??? The city employees put up the tent and set up the band stand on Friday during working hours for the city, so who paid for this? The city also purchased the white tables that were spread throughout the park, who paid for them??? the police officer was working overtime for 4hrs who paid his fee???? Who has to pick up after the party the next day during city working hours??? The garbage guys. So sounds like the city does more than its share of being involved in the party than the businesses just advertising it. Sure they are nice but times are getting tough for ALL and that includes the businesses around the party. I personally would rather have my services taken care of than going into a budget season needing to get rid of help. Who is going to put up the tent? The party guy needs to do these parties to show his worth to the city and keep his job also. TIMES ARE TOUGH FOR ALL LETS QUIT THE WASTEFULL PARTY NIGHTS. Or lets do everyother month till things get better.

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