PORT RICHEY — The City Council met for its last budget meeting of the month in August in preparation of its first public hearing next week. The final budget hearing has been scheduled for Sept. 23 at 5:30 p.m.

Finance Director Rachel Gosselin covered utility funds for water and sewer capital projects. The fund includes two utility trucks needed to replace old ones. City Manager John Dudte reiterated the need for a Vactor vacuum truck, explaining that the city can’t wait for an emergency to get one. Neither will borrowing a truck from an adjacent city help when a situation arises, such as heavy rains, that would make it needed by that city, too.

Dudte also recommend buying crane truck immediately with utility funds, which would cost the city approximately $70,000. A Vactor truck will be a bigger purchase, at a cost of $400,000 to $500,000. Dudte said that while the city has cash available to purchase the Vactor truck outright, it would be more prudent to finance it and give the city flexibility over its seven-year term to pay off interest.

Gosselin said a rate study needs to be done because the city’s stormwater fund is not bringing in enough revenue to cover expenses. “There’s no way we can cover current expenses in next year’s budget,” Gosselin said of the stormwater fund. “We will make it through this year’s budget, though.”

A bigger issue the city faces is the need to add three firefighters. Dudte said there is plenty of work for new hires and it would lessen the burden on the fire chief.

Mayor Scott Tremblay agreed that more firefighters are needed, especially with the increase in calls due to COVID. He said he believes the budget could fit one additional full-time firefighter and another part-timer that could fill in when the chief needs it. A part-time firefighter would give a cushion to fill in the position during sick or vacation days.