Tuesday , 29 July 2014
Breaking News

Lack of transparency in Palmetto Bay government

Grant Miller, Publisher

Palmetto Bay mayor and council members, when were you going to tell the taxpayers about what was not in the budget?

Taxpayers, some $1.5 million to date and the potential for $250,000 more of your tax dollars spent without your input. Are these numbers getting high enough for you to take notice? How about $461,000 in legal bills to date on the Palmer Trinity issue?

Accountability and transparency should mean that the village taxpayers would be informed and involved in advance of shifts in budget priorities. The interested taxpayer should know in advance where their tax dollars are going, but this is not the case in Palmetto Bay where the effects of this current “no tax increase” budget year are just starting to be seen as they begin to affect the residents, especially our youth.

No taxpayers were told in advance that the council members planned on spending $1.5 million from the reserves to make up for lost revenue as well as to pay for current pet projects. It was not publicly discussed until the second budget hearing. In these times when officials loudly and proudly proclaim greater “transparency” you should ask yourself whether you were told that:

• Your taxes would not be raised solely due to the fact that the village council approved emptying $1.5 million from the village’s “rainy day” savings. • No family movie night was held for Halloween.

• The village increased its legal spending, adding even more tax dollars to the fire, by hiring a $625 per hour attorney whose only mission is to up the ante in the legal fight against Palmer where the total bill to date is $461,000.

• $129,000 of your tax dollars would be spent to buy out a village vendor, the Jane Forman Tennis Academy, and that the monthly income would be lost, or dramatically reduced to the village.

Let’s examine the relative effects of this council’s spending priorities. The current outstanding legal bill for this new high-powered law firm is $42,098.32, approved by the village council at the Nov. 7 meeting. This $42,098.32 bill was incurred in less than two months.

Do you know what your village could do with $42,000? At that rate, a full budget year expense could be another $250,000. Forget the $250,000 for now. Let’s consider what the village taxpayers could get for just the $42,000 spent on additional legal fees in two month if spread out over an entire budget year:

• $42,000 would cover the youth police programs that were not properly funded, so your police officers could be on the street patrolling rather than doing the council’s work in actively engaging in community fundraising. This fundraising is needed for programs such as Rad Kids, Officer Friendly and Youth Crime Watch.

• $42,000 would cover the costs of at least 15 free family movie nights, even if this current council failed to find sponsors to reduce the costs.

• $42,000 would cover almost one-half of all participant fees paid by the parents of youths who play organized sports at Palmetto Bay’s parks — this includes the Broncos, girls softball and more.

It is not really just the $42,000 in new spending and even more than the $250,000 future potential. It is the present $461,000 spent to date on legal bills on Palmer alone and the $129,000 spent recently to buy out the Jane Forman Tennis Academy. This is equal to more than one-third of your $1.5 million in tax dollars taken out of reserves this budget year alone. Is anyone paying attention yet?

The mayor and council will not cut the legal vendettas in the budget. It is the family programs that are being affected. These are the activities that your mayor and council members love to show up for the photo opportunities. The mayor is always there to be photographed throwing out the first pitch, but she won’t pitch in to fund our area youth.

No public input has been requested on the legal expense. It certainly was not openly discussed at any budget hearing or even the poorly promoted and therefore, poorly attended budget workshop, yet the village council, cut out the Halloween and other family movie nights, and pushed their police officers off the street to hold fundraisers in order to fund police programs for area children. The Palmetto Bay media relations is putting a great spin on the event, bragging about a “unique fundraiser in support of the Village Policing Unit’s DARE Program.”

By Palmetto Bay’s own admission, hundreds of school children around the village benefit from DARE (Drug Abuse Resistance Education), a highly acclaimed program that gives kids the skills they need to avoid involvement in drugs, gangs, and violence. Yet it is not important enough to fully fund the program from your tax dollars. Wouldn’t it be pathetic to see our uniformed DARE police officers standing in the intersection of US1 and 152nd Street collecting donations from motorists?

It is fair game to question these decisions. Palmetto Bay taxpayers need to hold their elected officials accountable and start advising this council that kids are important, even those enrolled in private schools, and that those who want to continue to spend many of your tax dollars to fund their own litigation vendettas need to hold their own “unique fundraisers,” not spend your tax dollars.

Is this the vision you had for Palmetto Bay when it incorporated? It is your tax dollars. Demand better from your mayor and council in this current Palmetto Bay government.

2 comments

  1. Lack of transparency connotes secret decisions made behind closed doors. In the present case, the idea of tapping reserves to fund improvements to Thalatta Estate was discussed at a public budget hearing back in September if not earlier. Although one may disagree with the idea, there was obviously no lack of transparency. Similarly, even though the author would like Palmetto Bay to cave on the Palmer Trinity litigation, the matter has been subject to so many public hearings as to give new meaning to the word transparency. The remainder of the arguments made in the article are relatively minor ones with nothing to do at all with transparency. In the end, we have a group of elected officials who are trying to do their best under difficult circumstances, and emotional diatribes like this are not helpful.

  2. Officials are not thinking straight. City eliminates a guaranteed profit generating tennis facility. Then the city turns around and wants to invest $1M in a risky wedding banquet business in the public park. Makes no sense. Like yoru running around with yoru heads chopped off, please settle down and make a plan.