The High Springs City Commission approved a $9 million budget for the city 4-1 at a public hearing held Thursday evening.
Changes were seen in many departments to make up the $77,466 loss expected to occur due to a projected reduction in ad valorem tax revenues. The reduction comes as a result of maintaining the 6.15 millage rate while overall property values declined.
Commissioner Dean Davis cautioned the board against excess expenditures.
“We’ve made a lot of changes in the budget, and we don’t know how it’s going to shake it,” he said. “The way things are financially, this is not the time to spend more money.”
Conflict arose over the appropriate action in the midst of resignation of Fire Chief Verne Riggall. The fire department is now run by Captain. Bruce Gillingham.
The city’s position of fire chief has been abolished. And Commissioner Sue Weller voiced her opposition at the meeting.
“It gives the impression that we’re getting rid of the fire department,” Weller said. “I think we’re going down the wrong road.”
The commission discussed reinstating the fire chief position to replace the captain position. However, that would require opening the job to general application and increasing the position’s salary.
The commission agreed that they would like to keep on Captain Gillingham.
Mayor Larry Travis said that he had spoken to citizens who wanted to keep the position, but he felt the City needed to consider Captain Gillingham in the final decision.
“He’s a valuable member of our community,” he said. “He’s a valuable member of our fire department.”
City Commissioner Eric May said that he did not think switching Captain. Gillingham’s job title was a logical step for the city.
“I’d like to keep as much continuity as possible,” he said. “It sounds like we’re going to go through some significant dollars and some things, you know, to shuffle things around; go through a hiring process and so forth, put some employees in uncomfortable positions just so we can call him five letters instead of seven letters.”
After considerable discussion, commissioners opted not to reinstate the position of Fire Chief at this time.
Weller voted against the budget, citing concerns over the Fire Department issues.
The budget and ad valorem tax will be put to a final vote at the Sept. 19 meeting, held at 6:30 p.m. at the High Springs City Hall.
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