HIGH SPRINGS – The High Springs City Commission approved the city’s Fiscal Year 2011-2012 budget at $9 million in a 4-1 vote Monday night. The ad valorem tax rate of 6.15 mills was passed at the meeting with a 5-0 vote. Both the budget and tax rate will take effect Oct. 1.

The budget was amended to provide for the restoration of the fire chief position that had been eliminated following the resignation of Chief Verne Riggall.

Interim City Manager Jenny Parham reported at Monday’s meeting that the difference in the salary between the fire chief and fire captain positions was $3,300. The commissioners moved to make up the difference by taking the amount from the proposed city manager salary of $50,000 to $75,000.

Commissioner Eric May said he did not think the difference would change the quality of the candidates for the position.

“I think we’re still going to get the same pool of candidates,” he said. “I don’t think that $5,000 is going to make a difference. That’s an easy switch.”

Parham also explained that she would post the fire chief job opening in-house for five days, allowing employees to apply for the position first. The commissioners had expressed concern at the first public budget hearing on Sept. 8 that reinstating the position would put Captain Bruce Gillingham’s job in jeopardy.

As long as the captain applied and received the job, there would be no need to open it up for general application. Parham said this is a common practice she has followed multiple times this year alone.

Debate over the issue led to Commissioner Sue Weller voting against the proposal at the first hearing.

At Monday’s meeting, Commissioner Dean Davis voted against the final budget as proposed because of his opposition to the promotion of a part-time employee to full-time Parks and Recreation Director.

The new budget allots $41,000 for the employee to mow grass, do janitorial work and oversee the city’s parks and recreation facilities. The city is currently paying the individual $12,000 to mow grass.

Davis was in favor of hiring a contractual employee to do the job, explaining that it would cost $24,000 while relieving High Springs of having to pay for the upkeep of the mower and weed eaters.

“I know recreation is close to some of you-all’s heart, but we could have time in the spring to re-address this,” he said. “Spending this $30,000 is not going to improve it.”

However, Commissioner Eric May pointed out that taking this route would force the city to hire a janitor for the Civic Center. Hiring a full-time director is a $50 difference per year from using contractual employees, May said.

“Any way we slice this- from a financial standpoint, even just a mathematic standpoint- it doesn’t make sense, what you’re proposing,” he said.