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Ward 3 Candidate Question of the Week: What Is an Emergency?

Ward 3 Gulfport City Council Candidates Jennifer Salmon and James Perry answer our sixth Gulfport Patch "Candidate Question of the Week."

Voters will head to the polls on Tuesday, March 13, for a citywide vote to decide who will represent Gulfport City Council in Wards 3 and 1.

To help inform the community, Gulfport Patch will publish a City Council Candidate Question of the Week for both candidates.

Below you will find the answers from Ward 3 Candidates James Perry and Jennifer Salmon.

This week's question was a user submitted question.

Gulfport Patch Question of the Week: "What is an emergency? How will our funds be used when there is an emergency? What will we do when there is an emergency fund shortfall?"

 Jennifer Salmon

"'According to city ordinance, an emergency is a 'condition which threatens or adversely affects the public health, safety or security' and is 'from an act or threatened act of war, riot, terrorism, mob or other act of violence; from a weather event such as flood, hurricane or tornado; from a disruption in the city's utility system; or from any other cause.'

"This type of emergency should be paid for from our restricted reserve which is 25% of the previous year's general fund. It is expected to cover three months of operational costs. It is not a "rainy day fund" to be used to balance a budget during economic downturns.

"I think we should analyze the real costs of handling such emergencies and set aside the full amount regardless of the size of our general fund. For example, necessary overtime for police and public works staff would use up the restricted reserve quickly. We may need to move current unrestricted reserves into the restricted reserve to meet that standard.

"We need to prevent certain emergencies related to our sanitary sewer or water systems. This is why I supported using $1 million of the $2.1 million in the unrestricted reserve for paying to upgrade our sewer system rather than borrowing from and paying interest to a state revolving fund. Instead, those funds and interest will be paid back to Gulfport from a portion of our annual Penny for Pinellas allocation. I also want us to create restricted reserves for our enterprise funds to ensure that our infrastructure and capital costs are there when needed.

"In the case of a financial shortfall because the emergency costs were more than we planned for and FEMA and other insurance are not covering all of our disaster expenses, we have at least three options. First choice is to put off other lower priority items in our budget. Second choice is to apply for a short-term loan. The absolute last choice is to raise fees or taxes to take effect immediately.   

"If the city is under an emergency, so are our residents and property owners. They will be dealing with their own challenges. Finally, when we use the restricted reserve funds, we must restore them quickly. Emergencies are unpredictable and inconvenient by definition."

For more information learn more about Jennifer Salmon on her website.

James Perry

"An emergency is any unforeseen expense that must to be resolved immediately.   

"We do not currently have a designated Emergency Fund, however, the City does has a General Fund and a designated Reserve Fund to be used, when necessary, at the discretion of City Council."

For more information contact James Perry at his home at (727) 384-1807 or via email at jperry4council@aol.com. Mr. Perry does not have a campaign website.

Frank Verdino February 28, 2012 at 11:53 AM
It's odd that Jennifer would elect to us the 25 percent designated reserve before using unappropriated funds from elsewhere in the budget. I'd also like to know how we can analyze the "real cost" of an emergency that hasn't happened yet. The Tyron Lewis riots lasted several nights, a hurricane could effect us for weeks or months or longer. Also she ignores the possibility of issuing bonds which is how cities pay for most big expenses, particularly unexpected ones. Since issuing bonds takes time, wouldn't it have made more sense to issue a bond to fix the sewer system or take the loan offered by the state and not touch our cash on hand so in an emergency we could access the cash? Now what happens if there's an emergency and we haven't paid back the million?
mtober February 28, 2012 at 01:10 PM
...and Mr. Perry essentially did not answer the question. Apparently he is unaware of the Charter and the Code of Ordinances?
Nancy Kelley February 28, 2012 at 02:22 PM
Mr Verdino, Mr. Perry obviously has no knowledge regarding the question. You however pretend to . So tell us why it is you have no comment regarding Mr Perry's lack of knowledge. It is unfortunate that you didn't coach him on this question before hand. If you want to be a good puppeteer you will need a lot more practice.
Juan Happicampa February 28, 2012 at 04:48 PM
This is a good question. To address Mr. Verdino's question about assessment, we can easily use related data to scale. The Feds, State and County have built a projection database that can easily be accessed and applied. Mrs. Salmon demonstrates that she has the intelectual curiosity to address these issues and answer in a comprehensive way.
mtober February 29, 2012 at 03:35 AM
Frank - please tell us where there is $1,000,000 in unappropriated funds "elsewhere in the budget". Thanks.

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