Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Cooper City Budget Workshop Synopsis

Last night’s budget workshop was somewhat of a disappointment. Not only because we have had 3 months to address budget issues and haven’t done so yet, but also due to the fact that the meeting was not advertised properly in my opinion. Also disparaging is the fact that the budget is not posted on the city’s website for all to see.

It is apparent that certain city leaders don’t want you to see the current proposed budget without having to take time out of your busy life and go to city hall to check it out. The city is really behind the eight ball and the numbers were attempted to be justified solely by the GPI and private surveys.

I feel that our local government must change their ‘Spend it or lose it’ attitude and they must immediately tighten their belt like all of us have had to do in the recent past. The question that all of us should be asking is “What does this proposed budget specifically do?” We just don’t know. There is a severe lack of backup material and an apparent lack of fiscal responsibility in the air.

The current proposed vs. requested budget is approximately a 20% difference. The City Manager needs to respond to our needs, as he has been left pretty much unchecked in the past. Regardless, the Commission’s ultimate power is in approval or disapproval of the budget, and I have a feeling it will be a 3-2 approval.

In light of my valid concerns, our Contingency/Emergency fund has suffered a decrease of 45%, the Commission Pay raises slated for Stirling Road improvement is not addressed, the Utilities Master Plan and related issues were cut -88.5% in the capital improvements portion of the budget. Very scary!

The Commission received an already ‘cut’ budget, a budget completed by the City Manager which received no input by the Commission or residents before its submission. One Commissioner even gave away the fact that this was a set budget, not a proposed budget. Not one Commission member ever asked any real pertinent or pressing questions except for myself and Commissioner Mallozzi. The incumbents really did nothing but comment and continually defend the Manager and Staff, attempting to fully justify their actions and decisions.

Other grave concerns are unfunded liabilities, possibly to the tune of millions of dollars, not budgeted for nor were they fully discussed. Discretionary Bonuses should also be eliminated from this budget since department head salaries have increased by 30% since 2000. My proposal was a 10% across the board pay cut (for upper management). The top salaries can certainly support it. The blue collar workers need the rasies more than ever.

We have approximately $7M to $8M in reserves per the Comprehensive Annual Financial Report. Since we all know our police services have perceptively suffered somewhat since the BSO ‘takeover’, we should use some of it for police & fire services headcount and repairs and upgrades to our utilities infrastructure and its capital improvements.

Some city leaders bragged about decreased Millage rates yet the city has had a windfall in Ad Valorem tax revenues. We have no additional business foundation or valid long term sources of revenues (i.e., SMART Growth, Additional Revenues, etc.).

One item that was not planned for is the proposed ‘Super Exemption’ and its direct effects on our city revenues and services rendered. If the exemption passes, we could be in real trouble as we have nothing to offset the possible future losses in Ad Valorem revenues.

Regarding the Monterra P&L statements, I disagree that we are helpless as to the information and projections from the developer. We, at this point in time, simply don’t know about the impact of the development, the capital impact or the percentage of any possible losses or recovery. One additional source of questionable revenue discussed was City Park and sports complex ‘sponsorship’ advertising. I can see it now, a Victoria Secret advertisement in the sports complex!

Regarding the Attorney’s office budget, he stated that he knows nothing. The labor issues, costs of lobbying and associated issues, costs of litigation, etc, are handled by other contracts and departments, and when asked about the costs and responsibilities, the city attorney stated he knows nothing. Oh well…

As conveyed by one resident, the safety of the kids at sports complex should be a top priority. We need to go ahead and spend what we have to on the health and safety of our kids and park users, regardless of the costs. The money is there, let’s fix it now before someone is seriously injured or killed. Hopefully, the upgrade to the lightening system is already mandated and in progress.

Many residents are appalled at the city’s level of customer service. We have cut essential services but have not cut the exorbitant salaries. We have decreased level of services, and the general perception is that the public’s needs are less than average.

Budgets should reflect the desires and relevant issues of the community, not that of those in power. As I stated in my public commentary, politics must be completely eliminated from the budget process. We need open, honest government in Cooper City. The question is, do we continue to support the status quo or do we vote in positive change come January? We require and demand a Commission that works together for the will of the people!

Unfortunately for the benefit of, and on behalf of our city and the residents, I was not able to convey all of the positive issues that I had hoped to succinctly convey during my budget concerns commentary. Also unfortunate, aside from the fact that the sharing of notes on issues discussed, faces were made and statements by one Commissioner were made that some questions were ‘a waste of time’, is the fact that this budget and supporting documentation is not readily available or out in the open for all to scrutinize. Certainly, questioning or scrutinizing the budget is certainly not a waste of time by any means.

Further frustrations ensued when the Chair got defensive, answered for the Manager, cut me off when I directly addressed the Manager when asking for a response, and made the budget workshop a personal political platform. I didn't seek the opinion of the Chair, I sought the facts from the Manager.

Not only did the Chair make a feeble attempt at controlling speech, it responded with personal and political views with attacks and insults, and did not allow opening statements by the Commission. Regardless of the Chair’s antics, I am grateful that I am not the resident expert in unethical campaign and political practices…

Please be sure to tune in to, or attend the next budget hearings on Monday, 9/17 & 9/24 at 7:30 PM, City Hall.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Thanks for posting your concerns and leaving your comment! it may be approved shortly...

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.