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.

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