Florida Keys

Key West is struggling to balance a budget. It is starting by cutting out nonprofits

Key West’s budget hearings begin Monday, July 23, 2018 at 8:30 a.m. at City Hall.
Key West’s budget hearings begin Monday, July 23, 2018 at 8:30 a.m. at City Hall. FLKEYSNEWS.COM

As executive director of the Boys and Girls Club in the Florida Keys, Dan Dombroski is used to fighting for public funding as the city’s generosity threatens to shrink year after year.

But this year, funding has dried up.

City staff says Key West can’t afford to cut the Boys and Girls Club a $25,000 check. Or give $35,000 to a summer jobs program for teens. Or supply $45,000 to the Rotary to pay for the Fourth of July fireworks.

“Unbelievable!” Dombroski said in an email Friday, speaking of the $155,400 in proposed cuts in nonprofit funding.

Key West is looking at a tax increase of 2.62 percent unless city leaders can find more than $400,000 in budget cuts or extra revenue.

Staff on Monday will recommend the City Commission set the tax increase at 6 percent, as a placeholder of sorts, until it sets the final property tax rate in September.

The originally proposed increase of 2.62 percent would add $30 a year in taxes for a home worth $489,000. The city’s share of taxes on that same home was $1,080.

The city budget of more than $165 million includes $16.2 million raised by property taxes in a city still waiting on FEMA reimbursement for Hurricane Irma-related expenses.

“We haven’t received a dime yet,” said Mark Finigan, the city’s finance director . Key West is looking for at least $6 million in reimbursement.

Also potentially losing out on city funding are the Police Athletic League, which applied for $27,400; the teen empowerment program Keys to Be the Change, which wanted $8,000; and the Florida Keys Area Health Education Center, which asked for $15,000.

City Manager Jim Scholl next week will present his staff’s proposed 2018-2019 budget and recommend funding only one nonprofit: Fair Insurance Rates for Monroe, known as FIRM, which is set to receive $50,000 from the city.

The budget hearings start at 8:30 a.m. Monday at Key West City Hall, 1300 White St. Public comment will be heard in the morning.

The losing nonprofits were notified of the cuts Thursday via email.

In an email to commissioners, Finigan offered a brief explanation for the recommended cuts. “Unlike prior years where the city’s operating budget has been able to support the requested aid, the city manager is recommending that with the exception of FIRM, the city of Key West appropriate no funding for FY 2018-19 for all of the listed applicants,” Finigan wrote.

All are “valuable community-based organizations,” Finigan added, but “unfortunately, fiscal year 2018-2019 will be an operating period with several ‘unknowns,’ all with significant financial implications.”

Key West has fewer reserves than staff would like, plus FEMA reimbursement concerns and “a growing personnel and operating base,” Finigan said.