Jeff Green’s marching orders this summer were simple: find a way to close a city budget gap of as much as $8.5 million.
The city finance director slashed here and snipped there and proposed measures that people didn’t like. Even then the city had to do something he didn’t want to do: pull from reserves.
That, he told commissioners during budget hearings, is a well from which you cannot continue to draw. But, he said, prosperity might just be on the horizon.
Now not just the budget but the whole city is his headache, or his heaven, depending on how things turn out. On Thursday he was named the new city administrator.
“I’m humbled by the opportunity,” Green told The Palm Beach Post on Thursday, just before the formal announcement. “I’m very excited about the team we have and we’re getting ready to do great things.”
Green starts his new post Nov. 11. He succeeds Ed Mitchell, who left Oct. 16 after two decades at the city, 14 years of that as city administrator.
The city said it hadn’t yet determined what Green’s salary will be. Mitchell was paid $210,140.
With West Palm Beach instituting a “strong mayor” government in 1991, the city administrator’s powers are more limited than those of managers in other cities. The administrator oversees employees but cannot hire and fire; that’s done by Mayor Jeri Muoio.
Green fills one of three vacant high-level posts but of course creates a new one.
Human Resources director Marta Vittini, resigned Aug. 27, after her six-month probationary period. She’d replaced longtime director Pat Cooney. Twenty-four hours earlier, Kim Briesemeister, community redevelopment director since 2004, resigned. She later applied for a return to the city as a private contractor. Her firm is one of four finalists.
The city said it will start its search for a new finance director soon.
Green, a certified public accountant, he has more than 25 years in financial management. He was finance director for Fort Myers from 2003 to 2007 and then worked in private practice before coming to West Palm Beach in July 2012.
He replaced Randy Sherman, who resigned under pressure a half-year earlier. Green was hired at $142,858, about $10,000 less than Sherman earned. He has since received a 5 percent, end-of-probation raise, to $150,000.
West Palm Beach Mayor Jeri Muoio announced Green’s promotion Thursday in an email to employees.
“As you may know, Jeff has been the architect behind the city’s new five-year strategic plan, a fiscal and policy road map unlike anything this city has had in the past,” Muoio wrote.
It was Green who this summer proposed the options of raising the city’s tax rate, or tripling the fire assessment fee, or both. In the end the city did neither when it passed its $165 million operating fund budget. Green said at the time that, unless the city found even more cuts or got a lot more income over the next year, it would start its 2014-2015 budget year $5 million in the hole and would have to draw from reserves for a third year.
Revenues have dropped 13 percent since 2006 but many expected new developments and sales of property would eventually account for an added $1.3 billion in property value and generate as much as $10 million in new taxes, Green has said. But he has warned it could take as long as a decade for the city to get back to its high-water mark for property values.