Monday, September 26, 2011

Cooper City’s 2012 Fiscal Year Budget - Just the Facts

My recent challenge to my fellow commissioners was “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?” As you witnessed in our recently approved budget, there were no solid initiatives by my fellow commissioners.

Since 2007 our surplus funds have decreased from 50% of budget to just over 15% next year, due to continued uncontrolled spending. Instead of addressing a city on the verge of bankruptcy in 2013 per a recent city manager’s report, and the auditor, your elected representatives ignored making tough choices in order to make this next fiscal year a priority to maintain basic essential services, reduce taxes, fees and assessments, and improve customer service. The millage increased from 5.0479 mils to 5.0526 mils, yet rather than maintain or reduce your tax burden, the commission has increased it...again.

While Cooper City’s nickname has become ‘the taxing champions’ due to the fact that the city raised your total taxes at a higher percentage than any other government agency, the commission majority have again demonstrated gross fiscal irresponsibility. In fact, taxes for the less expensive homes increased more than the others. This regressive taxation scheme, along with the increased taxable amount due to the increase of the SOH assessment, and the double digit increases in the fire assessment negated the decrease in the debt levy millage.

This increase was a slap in the face of residents who have paid taxes for many years to pay off the debt incurred over the past years due to fiscal irresponsibility under the current Mayor, who viewed this with a glance down the nose at those who are currently facing the ugly prospects of unemployment, rising food and gas prices and those on a fixed income to mention just a few.

Special assessments are growing exponentially. In 20 years, assessments levied by government have tripled, increasing over 170%. This is faster than population growth (25%), inflation (27%), and growth in total personal income (76%). Cities have increased non-ad valorem assessments eight-fold in ten years and Cooper City is currently leading this trend.

As an example, the fire assessment, which we are being sued for, increased over 25% annually over the last 3 years which has hurt our lower income residents more than the others. I believe the assessment was based on a fire study which was flawed and incorrect for many reasons, which I have proven and was ignored. At most, residents should be paying less than $100, yet some city businesses are facing a 270% to 365% increase! Fire assessment collections have gone from $600K to over $1.4M in just 5 years. Currently, BSO is costing us over 65% of our general fund revenues and in 7 years BSO increases will be at 100% of our current general fund revenues.

The Mayor objected to lobbyist fees which have saved the city multi-millions of dollars and will continue to do so in the future, yet won’t address our skyrocketing city attorney fees, yet she falsely accued me of unethical conduct based on a picture of me and the lobbyist at a football game. Guess what Mayor, I don't discuss business at football games, and even if I did, it would be quite alright. The commission has again ignored this uncontrolled increased expense (city attorney) and litigation costs due to long term personal and political relationships that were undisclosed by the Mayor...

It’s past time for the commission to address the issue of actually implementing real solutions in order to reduce costs. The likelihood is that your commission majority will continue to be fiscally irresponsible and support 'feel good' non-essential programs. This may change since 2012 is an election year. My take is that the majority will try every way possible to raise taxes again except telling the candid truth; that the waste franchise fees, fire tax and the huge increases in EMS transport charges are just excuses to raise revenues when the city should be doing everything possible to cut expenses and join the citizens in being more cost efficient.

If you are concerned about the city’s fiscal condition, please forward your concerns to me. I will ensure that the commission continues to hear your voice.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Cooper City - The Taxing Champions of 2012; Mayor's Budget Article

Recently I received several emails and phone calls regarding the Mayor’s article in this month’s Davie & the Ranches (DRW) magazine (Attached). Sadly, the Mayor is being most disingenuous with the intended readers. The Mayor states, “As the economy continues to stagger and fami­lies strive to squeeze more mileage from every dollar, so too does the City continue to tighten the reins by reducing spending and implement­ing cost saving strategies.” I guess I must have missed that memo or the super secret staff meeting, as the facts very clearly tell another story...

The city now proposes to again increase fire assessment fees over 25%, increase EMS transport fees to 89% with no removal of the collections clause, and property taxes have gone up again under this Mayor’s ‘watch’.

The facts are very clear. In 2010 Cooper City’s General Fund budget was $28,778,798. The 2011-12 budget proposes an increase to $29,389,782. The 2009-10 Capital Expenditures were budgeted at $1,156,658, and in 2011 they are proposed at $1,479,900. The Expenses in 2009-10 were budgeted at $25,905,061, and in 2010-11 they are proposed at 26,308,673. On top of these increases, we have substantially increased attorney fees, and now at least two, and possibly more lawsuits that will cost us big money.

The city now proposes to:
+ Increase again the fire assessment fee over 25%,
+ Increase Emergency Medical transport fees 89% without removal of the strong collections clause for non-payment, although the city and staff say that they will not pursue collections (yeah right!).
+ Increase most of the other permit fees.
+ Increase Ad Valorem Property Taxes.
+ Increase business fire inspections fees. (They will pass up the prices to the business owner, and ultimately to the customer, some of which will pay well over 200% more)

In last year’s General Fund the budget was $28,778,798.
This year’s General Fund budget is projected to be $29,389,782,
An increase of + $610,984.

The Expenses last year were budgeted at $25,905,061,
and this year is projected at $26,308,673.
An Increase of + $403,612

The previous Capital Expenditures’ were projected at $1,156,658
This coming year’s Capital Expenditures are projected at $1,479,900
An increase of + $323,242

Maybe I just missed seeing the reduction in spending and the cost saving strategies, but these are the cold hard numbers. In fact, costs and expenses have been increasing under the Eisinger leadership model. (See the attached ‘Page from Mid-Year Budget Report.pdf file’) The 2012 proposed budget can be viewed here:{576852A5-BD98-472C-B9C6-A0C726D169C8}

A very clear $1,337,838 or nearly one and a half million dollar increase in a time where almost 50% of the homes in Broward County are ‘underwater’.

As most of you are aware your property assessment was also increased, and many, if not all taxes will increase. You do the math and if I am wrong you tell me.

This does not count the ever increasing cost of legal fees as a result of the unbridled city attorney and the current slate of lawsuits pending. Under this Mayor’s watch the cost of living in Cooper City continues to rise at what I would call an alarming rate.

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”

So, Cooper City has proven that it has a history under the Mayor’s watch, as raising taxes and fees while the other government entities are decreasing them. Cooper City is the Taxing Champions AGAIN! AND, hitting the lower income folks hardest.

Regarding the Fire Assessment “fee’: to paraphrase Harry Truman…"If it is on your tax bill, looks like a tax, is collected like a tax and you pay it with the same check, it’s a tax."

This form of taxation is called regressive taxation, where you hit the lower income people by a higher percentage than those with higher incomes.

Tonight’s city commission meeting at 6 PM will tell exactly where the commission stands on protecting the future and financial security of our fixed income, low income, unemployed residents and struggling local business owners.

We already know their intent…spend more, raise taxes and assessments more, and hurt the fixed, low income, unemployed residents and local businesses of ‘Someplace Special’ while eliminating essential services in exchange for retaining ‘feel good’ programs. I’m not holding my breath…neither should you.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

2012 Cooper City Tax Increases...

Below are comments from the Cooper City Civic Group Blog regarding the proposed 2012 Cooper City tax increases…

- Bigger % increases on low income families than higher ones?
- Taxing champions --- AGAIN! When people are hurting? [Cooper City] Leads all Broward tax authorities in the tax increases for residents!
- Bad economics--- how are people to increase spending and job creation locally if the Cooper City government takes more of their squeezed incomes?

Hard to believe? Yet that is what 4 commission members [Jamie Curran, Jeff Green, Lisa Mallozzi and Mayor Debby Eisinger] and some on the staff [City Manager Bruce Loucks] seem to be supporting.

1. Their tax/fee package will result in those with lower valued homes paying a bigger % increase than those of us with higher valued homes.

A sample of 13 homes [Data obtained from the Broward Property Appraiser] shows the following % increases in Cooper City taxes…

Market value per Tax Appraiser % Cooper City % increase for all other
tax increase Broward governments

$100,000 to $199,999 6.9 (1.8)
$200,000 to $299,999 4.4 (2.1)
$300,000 plus 3.2 (3.1)

So, Cooper City is raising taxes and fees while the others [Broward County Governments] are decreasing them.

[Cooper City is the…] Taxing champions AGAIN! AND, hitting the lower income folks hardest!!!

Taxes include the normal property taxes and the fire assessment “fee”.

Regarding the Fire assessment “fee’, to paraphrase Harry Truman. "If it is on your tax bill, looks like a tax, is collected like a tax and you pay it with the same check, it’s a tax."
[Don’t be fooled by the politicians in City Hall, Mayor Eisinger, Lisa Mallozzi, Jamie Curran and Jeff Green, it’s still major a tax increase]

This form of taxation is called regressive taxation, where you hit the lower income people by a higher % than those with higher incomes.

I doubt that 5 % of Americans support this or believe it to be just and moral.2. Bad economic policy. It is a form of Cooper City economic de-stimulus.

We all know the hard times many of our people face. Governments taking more purchasing power out of the hands of consumers will decrease consumer spending and job creation. It will add its bit to our economic problems. You can count on a major fraction of the regressive tax increase resulting in lower local consumer spending, jobs and sales.

PLEASE FORWARD and come to the September 14th and September 26th Commission Budget Meeting and sign up to voice your objection to raising your taxes…AGAIN! If you don’t come and voice your opinion, the opinion of the majority on the commission will prevail…