Looking for the handsome gentleman playing darts at GYM Bar ….

Well, I guess it might be best to leave it at that, cause our new city motto going forward will be, “Whatever happens on The Drive, stays on The Drive!”

Looking back as I write this article, the unusual encounter should have been no surprise. All week I was struggling with a mood of unease, a type of restlessness that happens when some kind of major change is on the horizon. It’s the type of change that is self-induced, a necessary change to alter the present course, something is no longer working, no longer offering a sense of fulfillment or purpose.

It’s usually not just one item, but rather a whole slew of things coming to a combustible state swirling inside my head. Employment, volunteer positions, education, current affairs, home life, friends, finances, getting older, and so many other facets of my daily life fall out of sync and are in need of a major jolt to bring them all back into alignment. How big of a jolt or how life altering it may be is the big unknown in this equation.

Adding to this combustible mix was an upcoming week of dental work and city budget meetings. Wow, I made it through in pretty good shape, avoiding the train wreck that could have derailed with such dreadful items as a root canal, taxes, milage rates, and throbbing pain. After such a week, I should have been found numbing it all away with a gin-induced state of inebriation. Luckily, it ended with a wonderful encounter, a new interest in darts, and perhaps just a bit light headiness brought on by some very large shots of Herradura.

Amazingly, the dreaded dental work was completed without the slightest pain, except for the bill, and the annual budget review process was equally painless. Members of the Wilton Manors Budget Review Committee gather for a week in July for what seems like round-the-clock meetings to review the city’s proposed budget for the upcoming fiscal year and then delivers a report to the Mayor and City Commissioners.

Having had the pleasure of serving on this committee for the past five years, my apprehension for the usual battles over staffing, wages, funding, expenditures, and capital expenses was high. To my delight and relief they did not materialize this year, just like the anticipated grief over my dental work. Perhaps the swirling spiritual powers that are kicking up dust this week are not only affecting me, but are part of a much larger picture, altering the usual processes and expected norms.

City Manager Leigh Ann Henderson, Finance Director Bob Mays, and their staffs presented a proposed budget for FY 17-18 that represents a sound fiscal instrument guiding our municipal government forward. In years past, many of the various department heads’ wish lists, usually with hefty price tags, where included within the proposed budget, only to be trimmed out through the review process, sometimes with much drama and effort.

This year, our elected officials made a strong statement early in the budget process, during the Goals and Objectives Workshops, that there should be no growth in city staffing, that benefits needed to be curtailed, and that leaner times are on the horizon. City management listened and delivered a proposed budget to our committee that does just that with no additional full-time staffing, modest wage increases for our dedicated city staff, and very little work for our committee. There will be some discussion and changes made by our City Commission as the process moves forward, but I would be very surprised if much gets changed this time around.

Our Police Department heads the list as the department with the largest slice of the pie, followed by Leisure Services. Public safety comes at a high price for all cities, especially lately with the need for additional safety measures, extensive training, and more administrative costs.

Wilton Manors can take pride in the great work done by our Police Department. We can also take pride in our wonderful parks, recreational facilities, and programs that Leisure Services delivers for all residents to enjoy. Our city has made a firm commitment to making sure that public safety and quality of life are top priorities here in Wilton Manors.

Budgets offer road maps moving forward for the next fiscal year. Covering our expenses today, planning for the future, and stashing away a rainy day fund for those unknown bumps in the road, such as unexpected dental bills, are all part of the process. Balancing those factors along with interests of city staff, its residents, and elected officials is not an easy task. Nobody knows exactly what lies ahead, but our city government is making some pretty darn good choices to steer us in the right direction.

Those wise choices, along with unexpected encounters, are what makes life just better here ….