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.

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