Finance Friday – Not Everything is General Fund
Published on September 01, 2023
The General Fund is essential. It pays for most of the programs and services that make up a city. When a Gainesville Police Department officer responds to the scene of an accident, those are General Fund dollars at work. When you report a pothole and it gets repaired, that comes from the General Fund. When you visit a city park, go to a meeting at City Hall, or attend a concert at Bo Diddley Plaza, what you experience is supported by the General Fund.
So when there’s a General Fund shortfall — like this year’s reduction of the Government Services Contribution by about $19 million — it has enormous impact. The city has to balance its budget, but closing the gap requires finding new ways to cut costs and maximize efficiencies. It can lead to the restructuring of divisions, as has been proposed for Nature Operations. It can pave the way for new moves, like the plan to shift Traffic Operations to Public Works.
But one detail that’s easy to miss is this: Not everything is General Fund. The city also has other funding sources such as enterprise funds and special revenue funds. These generate their own funding streams, usually by collecting a fee for service or a special levy. The following are examples of the city’s enterprise funds.
- The Regional Transit System (RTS) largely runs on ridership fees and state and federal grant funding.
- The Stormwater Management Fund is based on a fee from utility customers that pays to maintain runoff and operate a mosquito control program.
- The Stormwater Management Surcharge for Capital Projects supports the design, replacement and expansions of the city’s stormwater infrastructure.
- The Solid Waste Fund covers the cost of trash collection and recycling.
- The Florida Building Code Enforcement Fund consists of permit fees; all spending goes toward providing building inspection services.
An example of a special revenue fund is Wild Spaces Public Places (WSPP), which receives funding from the half-cent surtax passed by Alachua County voters. This revenue, which is not part of the General Fund, has paid for the construction and improvement of many municipal park facilities across the city, including Depot Park and Massey Park. Gainesville also benefits from a newer half-cent tax that focuses on infrastructure projects such as roads, fire stations and affordable housing. The city has branded the infrastructure surtax program under the name Streets, Stations and Strong Foundations (SSSF).
The first public hearing for the fiscal year 2024 budget proposal is scheduled for Thursday, Sept. 7. That is when the City Commission will set a tentative millage rate for the General Fund, and also will review and approve on first reading the budget for all funds, to include enterprise and special revenue funds. The meeting calendar is available here.
Find more information about the City of Gainesville budget process and timeline through this link.