Monday, September 17, 2007

Why I Oppose The Proposed Budget

I felt it was necessary to publish this statement on why I have decided not to vote in favor of the currently proposed Budget.

I specifically campaigned on restoring Cooper City’s financial integrity and emergency reserves. I also requested that we make a valid attempt to reduce our ten year budget projections by 20 to 25%. I even went so far as to request 10, 15 and 20% proposed reductions of our current budget without any response whatsoever by the administration. I asked to create more financial support for seniors, and to support them with our many existing youth programs to no avail.

Yes, I also campaigned on improving our existing recreational programs. That doesn’t mean that I want to eliminate them, but we need to carefully choose which programs are successful, and which are not successful, not just those in Parks and Recreation Department, which are currently costing this city’s taxpayers lot’s money. It is not logical to think that no changes need to be made to the proposed budget. Compromise is necessary and the only time to make a consensus is now since we have failed to plan our budget approval process accordingly.

Some members would like most the time spent focusing on such small items and not on the more important ones. It’s not that I don’t agree with the ‘fun stuff’ in our budget, but we need to look at our return on the investment regarding some of our programs. To the contrary, regarding my thoughts on non-essential services and programs, its called duty and fiscal responsibility, which I am committed to.

Over the last year, there has been an uproar over local property taxes. Over the past few years, there has been a windfall in property tax revenues. The legislature has reacted by imposing mandatory roll backs, placing on the ballot a constitutional amendment to cause property taxes to be cut even more severely. The first phase is costing this city millions. The constitutional amendment will cause an additional and speculative few million. Several Legislators, voting in favor of the January 29 referendum, are publicly stating they are asking the public to vote against it. That is not the issue at this point in time, nor is the issue of which is the right exemption the issue here tonight.

The problem is not only with the appropriateness of spending in the City of Cooper City, but also in the broken, unfair, inequitable tax structure that has been created in the State of Florida. It is just wrong. Granted, the people who have remained in their homes for many years pay low taxes, but in return, are trapped in their homes. Those not covered by the homestead exemption and also new residents are forced to pay an unequal excess of taxes to make up this difference, but they can freely move around.

Compound this with State Legislature’s unfunded mandates, unfunded city liabilities, the lack of supporting material, the lack of openness, the unanswered questions, the invalid explanations, the unjustified numbers, along with the uncontrollably spiraling cost of city government waste and unnecessary non-essential services, and you can begin to see the situation. It isn’t the few thousands of dollars most people comment on or are concerned about. It’s the millions of dollars in forced and unknown expenses and liabilities that are the source of our long term stability problem. It isn’t the city that entirely created this problem, but it is the city, this Commission and ultimately the residents and businesses that will suffer for it. But I can say this, it certainly is the city’s job to fix the budget problems, no matter how small. It is this Commission’s duty to be responsible and ethical regarding our budget, not defend the status quo.

In response, the City of Cooper City has put forward the proposed budget you now see. I must compliment the Staff and another Commissioner for addressing many of the concerns of the city; given the extraordinary restrictions that have been presented. Many crucial and essential services will indeed suffer at the hands of this Commission. The budget seemingly attempts to meet those concerns while avoiding as much pain as possible, though there are several key critical areas that I disagree with and that I am very concerned about. Many will be hurt by this budget, but not nearly as many that ultimately will be hurt in the future if this present budget process continues forward.

Spending in our city is spiraling out of control. It’s time that our city officials become more fiscally accountable and responsible. We need to implement and abide by a Zero based budget. That simply means that means that every line item and every program be justified from the ground up each fiscal year. The budget needs to be tighter, so that our 6 month review won’t be as painful. The gist of debate has been shifted from the big impact items to the little ones these past few months.

My vote against the budget is a vote of protest. I protest the inequitable process and the specific inequities of the proposed budget, the unnecessary and non-essential services funded by the city by your tax dollars, and a broken system created by the Legislature that has hampered our ability to serve the people. This is also a protest of things to come. If no one stands up to voice these valid concerns that affect each and every one of us, no one will ever take the necessary steps to fix them.

At such time in the future that someone starts to address the underlying, inherent problems in our budget and in our tax structure, and forcefully holds the city to adequately address its budget, critical and essential needs in a responsible way, only then we will be able to properly see to the needs of our residents, businesses, and other shareholders, which I can then support.

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