Fiscal responsibility should mean that your government officials would dip into reserves only when they have to in order to protect essential services, not dip into them because they simply want to for nonessential projects. But once again, you had to be there to believe it (well of course you had to be there live, the meetings are still not being broadcast as promised nearly a year ago). This was the first year that Palmetto Bay officials planned on spending more money than expected revenues. Bells and whistles warning of financial danger ahead should be going off, but the mayor and Palmetto Bay council gave approval to its budget that did the following:
• Removed nearly a half million dollars from reserves at the start to balance a budget that suffered year another year of reduced income. This is your past tax dollars, put away for emergencies, going to pay expenses relating to providing services. • Took nearly another $1,000,000 from these same reserves for discretionary spending on pet projects such as park project expansion and renovations.
• Gave raises to the manager and clerk.
• Put nearly $2,000 into the budget for each council member to travel at village expense, despite the fact that the mayor is paid $2,000 per month and each council member is paid $1,000 per month to pay for their expenses of holding office.
You might be asking why I am bothering to write about this, but many people have called and emailed me asking why I don’t do more as a community watchdog to monitor and expose what this mayor and council are doing, to get more people motivated to following the money. There is a problem here and that is Palmetto Bay seems to be the only government reversing the trend of belt tightening.
The examples are listed above and more; instead of holding off on projects, during this current budget year, this mayor and council spent $50,000 on art in a traffic circle, and that is just the art itself, not including the unstated additional costs of village personnel and assets to assist in the installation, maintenance and security. For the upcoming year, this village council is planning to spend on a grandiose plan to enlarge Thallata Park. The absurdity continued at that budget meeting as the mayor appeared to opine that the nearly $1,000,000 in new renovations would help balance the budget in future years by drawing in $200,000 in revenues per year. $200,000, per year, really? This is one business plan that every Palmetto Bay taxpayer should be asking to read. Thalatta, for those who don’t know, sits sandwiched between two prominent wedding and event locations: the Deering Estate and the Palmetto Bay Village Center. Ask around, your county tax bill is not being subsidized by the weddings at Deering and it certainly is not the wedding events that keep the Palmetto Bay Village Center operating.
The problem is there are limited ways for governments to put money away in reserve. The only way to do it is to save money in times of surplus.
The initial mayor and council saved $9.8 million dollars during the first eight years that included payment of $1.7 million per year to the county. That mayor and council are now replaced by a new council that wants to spend those hard earned and nearly irreplaceable savings to satisfy their own egos on the pet projects. It should also be noted that the initial mayor and council paid for many of the first projects through over $19 million in grants and other outside monies. Once such example, Thallata, was purchased at nearly $3.9 million, but paid for by approximately $3.7 million in grants and other outside money. That was the old council. No grants are being raised by the current council, but they do not seem to think that, just perhaps, they should hold off spending until grants can be located and obtained. There is no resemblance to the prior fiscal sanity by this new council, as the money is now free-flowing from your tax pocket into the park.
This is the first budget by this new mayor and current council. No spending cuts, but balance is temporarily achieved by robbing stealing from the reserve fund by over $1,500,000. Listen to the experts, times will stay the same or slightly get worse for the next few years. It is not time to dip into the reserves.
At this rate, and assuming no financial crisis, the safety reserves could be reduced by a total of $6,000,000, down to less than $3.8 million by the forth budget of the mayor’s four year term. Then you really better hope no hurricanes or other disasters strike.
This is not good management or financial stewardship. Palmetto Bay taxpayers should not be drinking the kool-aide, the residents should demand better.