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!

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