Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Cooper City's Upcoming Budget Crisis

In Cooper City, there were over 450 foreclosures this year, yet Monterra is doing fine. What needs to happen to help reduce this travesty? This is one of many upcoming challenges for your Cooper City commission. What does your commission want to do in this upcoming fiscal year to improve our lifestyle and make ‘Someplace Special’ even more special? Do you know? What is it that we, the taxpayers, have a reasonable expectation as to what needs to be done in order to reduce our tax burden?

Given the problem, the Broward Property Appraiser’s assessment immediately increased our taxes by 2.7% under Save Our Homes. We don’t have a choice other than to pay it. However, the commission does have a choice when it comes to city taxes, levies and fees, along with the costs of doing business. Cooper City’s nickname has become ‘the taxing champions’ due to the fact that the city actually raised your taxes last year at a higher percentage than any other government agency.

As an example, the fire assessment previously increased 23% and subsequently 18% last year. Now there is a lawsuit about this issue that will cost you millions due to the ignorance and lack of due diligence by the city attorney. How much will the fire assessment be this year, another 18 to 25%? It would be ludicrous for the commission to even pass an assessment based on pending litigation knowing now that they didn't get it right, just as I predicted.

Is this the way our city commission should address loss of revenues and increased operating costs? A significant amount of residents have already had a tax increase of 2.7% as stated, and maybe more based recent comments by your city commissioners and the city’s financial trends that I have been monitoring.

One exorbitant expense is our attorneys’ fees, yet the commission has ignored this increased expense along with increased attorney's fees, litigation and magistrate costs, one reason being political relationships. More expenses upcoming; a Fire Assessment Class Action lawsuit has been filed as mentioned, and another potential lawsuit by the Chabad is looming, among others such as David Nall, the fellow who ran against Commissioner Mallozzi (who by the way was involved in wiretapping and a smear campaign against Nall) and was unnecessarily defamed by Mallozzi and Mayor Eisinger.

As of now, there are no numbers from the city manager regarding our finances or a run-rate analysis regarding our budget. Without that, it will be tough to make intelligent decisions regarding our 2012 budget, yet the commission just renewed his contract for 4 more years rather than annually as I suggested. Last year we were short $500K and still had to borrow $2M and, we still have $20M to play with per the CAFR. It’s time to address the issue of actually implementing solutions in order to reduce costs.

The upcoming budget will be a very challenging experience and it will test the commission as to where they are heading on these issues. Are they going to raise your taxes again? Our Budget Workshops on July 25th and 26th are at 6 PM. July 28th is the workshop to set millage rates, debt levy, adoption of initial assessment resolutions and set times and dates for public budget hearings, all at city hall. I doubt that 5 or 6 people show up to protest...

The decisions during this upcoming budget process are going to be difficult and will affect residents in an adverse way, and I am doing everything possible to avoid that on your behalf. It’s past time to address the issue of solutions in order to reduce costs, not continuing to promote unnecessary services while continuing to neglect and not improve core services. The likelihood is that your commission majority will raise taxes again because this isn’t an election year.

One reason I see that the economy is such a mess is that most career politicians care far more about keeping their political jobs than about helping you keep yours. My recent challenge to my fellow commissioners is “what’s the tough choice in 2011 that you’re going to make in order to make Cooper City better, more efficient and less costly to run?”

So far, there are no responses by anyone. The city faces immediate tough choices in order to make this next fiscal year a priority to increase services, reduce taxes and improve customer service. My first priority after public safety is creating local jobs. Jobs are created here in our city by local business owners, not in Tallahassee or in Washington. This is why we have reduced costs by the city to local business owners, so they can create more jobs.

On a final note, there are two candidates so far running for Mayor in 2012. Gary Laufenberg (who ran against me with Mayor Debby Eisinger's support) and Greg Ross, our City Magistrate. I'm sure there are more to come. Hopefully this city will make the right decision to place a mayor in the seat who will look out for your best interests, not those of themself and their political future.

To those of you that are concerned about what this commission wants to do regarding this upcoming budget process, please forward your concerns to me at johnsims@bellsouth.net or call me at 954-445-6997 and I will ensure the commission hears your voice...very clearly!

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Cooper City News and more...

I apologize for the late notice, but please be advised that Representative Martin Kiar, Evan Jenne and Senator Eleanor Sobel have reserved the City Hall Auditorium for a Town Hall Meeting to be held tonight Wednesday, June 8th from 7:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. They will be discussing this year’s Legislative Session and how it impacts our great city.

Also, there will be a June 21st Commission Meeting Agenda to confirm the scheduling of a Workshop – Topic: Fire Rescue Services, for Wednesday, July 20th at 3:00 p.m.

I will be attending the Nation¹s First Conference Designed to Facilitate Partnerships Between Private Sector Providers of Public Services and State and Local Governments to be held on June 24th. As Florida communities struggle to provide quality public services with ever-shrinking local government budgets, a newly formed Jacksonville-based research institute, led by senior executives and former local government officials, announced plans for a trend setting one-day Florida Privatization Conference - the first of its type in the nation. For the first time in Florida history, local government leaders will join private industry leaders to discuss the rapidly growing government services privatization movement.

Privatization, a system of contracting public services to private industry providers, is proving to be an essential tool for governments to help solve major fiscal and capital investment challenges. In 2011, virtually every government entity
Policymakers in every state, since 2008, have been faced with mounting budget deficits that require new approaches to delivering public services at lower costs. Prior to 2008, most state and local governments experienced robust revenue growth and steady increases in overall spending. Since 2008, declining economic conditions have forced governments to continually reduce their budgets, creating significant challenges and inabilities to meet basic service levels.

On June 24th in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, at the epicenter of the nation¹s municipal financial storm, the Government Services Privatization Institute (GSPI) will launch the first in a series of regional U.S. local government privatization conferences designed to provide practical guidance, real-world case studies and best practices surrounding the budget balancing privatization of local government services. If you have any suggestions please let me know.

Florida Power and Light’s new solar rebate program…Starting this year, FPL is offering rebates to customers who install photovoltaic (PV) and solar water heating systems in their homes and businesses. The solar rebate programs are part of a five-year pilot program authorized by the Florida Public Service Commission, to promote clean solar power and reduce energy consumption. FPL is authorized by the Florida Public Service Commission to spend a total of $15.5 million per year on these new solar rebate programs -- enough to support thousands of homes and hundreds of businesses. Act quickly as the registration starts June 21, and the rebates are expected to go quickly.

Residential Customers - Residential customers may receive a rebate of $1,000 for installing new solar water heating systems, and up to $20,000 for installing photovoltaic
(PV) system and interconnecting to FPL's grid.

Business Customers - Business customers may receive rebates up to $50,000 per site for installing a new solar water heating system and up to $50,000 per site for installing a PV system and interconnecting to FPL's grid.

For more information: http://www.fpl.com/landing/solar_rebate/index.shtml?cid=aliassolarrebates

Some residents have raised the issue of an invalid certificate when paying utility bills online. The reason you may receiving this particular error message is because the URL you entered does not match the site name assigned to the SSL the City purchased from VeriSign. The correct address you must use is https://www.utilities.coopercityfl.org If you have any questions please contact me at your convenience.

We have made some exciting new changes to the City website, which we think you may appreciate. The format has been updated to provide our residents with a website which has been organized to be more service-oriented.

We are still in the process of organizing web pages and sections to be more efficient for the user, and we appreciate any suggestions you may offer. We will also be adding a photo album of City events and replacing the banner’s stock images with some Cooper City images that we are sure you’ll recognize. Here’s the link if you’d like to take a look: www.coopercityfl.org

Also, it’s Hurricane Season! Make sure you are fully prepared. You can view the National hurricane Center’s website here: http://www.nhc.noaa.gov/ There is a ‘hurricane preparedness’ section that has lots of great information here: http://www.nhc.noaa.gov/outreach/prepared_week.shtml

Our Parks and Recreation Director Ken Richardson submitted his resignation to be effective July 5th. We wish him luck and hope that he fully enjoys his new home in Ormond Beach!

My next Town Hall meeting is at 7 PM at City Hall on Monday, June 13, 2011. They are held monthly, on the second Monday of the month. We will be discussing the upcoming budget in addition to other issues that affect you.

Thank you and have a great week!

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Cooper City's Financial Status

Cooper City’s Financial Status

The city recently had a presentation regarding the Comprehensive Annual Financial Report (CAFR) for Cooper City. The results are not ‘pretty’. Below are some comments made by the Auditor and the City Manager.
You can view my comments regarding our future financial obligations HERE and you can view the ‘CAFR’ HERE.

Grau & Assoc, Auditor - “The unrestricted Enterprise Fund Net Assets increased from $4.2M to $6.3M in profit to the Enterprise (Water & Sewer) due to a decrease in accrued interest. Next year it will be more. You have a lot of money in this fund.”

Re: General and Enterprise funds “You have two funds going in opposite directions here” (regarding revenues and expenses).

“Cooper City actually spent more than it took in”

“There are not enough revenues coming in to cover expenditures”

“Revenues increased”

Bruce Loucks, City Manager - “Our BSO Contract is increasing exponentially.”

“Our utilities debt is increasing, and we (the City) will be funding projects in lieu of debt”

“Hopefully we won’t have debt for the $3.5M pump station that the city will be funding”

Also, now on the Cooper City website: Bids!

See all bids and their status here:
http://www.demandstar.com/supplier/bids/agency_inc/bid_list.asp?f=search&LP=BB&mi=1144348