PB: SDM’s first guest post – David Singer asks some good questions

by SDM

SDM took a little liberty with the blog today to post a comment from David Singer. SDM has never met Mr. Singer nor have the two of us ever spoken. His words are powerful, though SDM cautions that whenever a resident attempts to discuss a public entity’s budget there is a risk that he or she may misunderstand the document.

In Mr. Singer’s case, SDM has confidence in his comments because he focused on the fund balances, which in lay terms is the amount of cash the village will have on hand at the end of next year’s budget cycle. It’s a pretty tough number to fudge. If Mr. Singer is correct, there is big trouble in River City.

This email and documentation went to the Mayor and Council this morning.

To all,

I have not been able to meet, after repeated attempts, with the Palmetto Bay’s Director of Finance [Desmond Chin]. This meeting was imperative to either confirm or refute my calculations below. Thus since no meeting occurred, this will be the story I will be submitting to the Miami Herald. Of course it will be more detailed.

In accordance with the attached Summary of Funds that I downloaded from the Village website, the beginning Fund balance on October 1, 2012 is $15,061,167. The ending Fund balance budgeted for September 30, 2013 is $8,298,573. Therefore the use of funds during the upcoming year, based on the current budget is going to be $6,762,594. You are spending almost seven million dollars of reserve. That’s not what you said on the record.

If you look further into the numbers of the attached document, you will see that the use of reserve funds over the past three-year period has been $10,014,568. That is really horrendous for a Village that ran in the Black for the first eight years of operation. Where did the 10 million dollars go?

Looking further down on the attached document, you will see that the Unassigned Fund balance ending as of September 30, 2013 is $5,440,180. This Unassigned fund balance, or ‘reserve,’ if you will, is lower than any other local municipality I have investigated, which includes Pinecrest, Miami Lakes, Coral Gables, and others. There were references made at the budget meeting that the Village had more money in reserves than other many municipalities in Miami-Dade – a total misrepresentation on the part of the Mayor.

At no point in the final budget meeting, and I’ve watched it repeatedly, was a $6,762,594 use of reserves mentioned. $6,762,954 is the number budgeted to be spent in FY 2012-2013 regardless of what was represented verbally at a public hearing. In fact, everyone who spoke about the numbers is on record as saying that only $2.3 million would be used. And that was only after they finally admitted that the $900,000 which they originally floated was deemed to be a misrepresentation during my simple questioning. If you need reminding, the budget hearing is on video, unless of course there is a Nixonesque deletion of the hearing in the near future.

At no point in the final budget meeting was there disclosure that there is only $5.4 million in unassigned reserves rather than $8.3 million. $8.3 million turns to $5.4 million because $2.8 million has been earmarked as “committed” and can’t be used for a contingency (unless you have your own accounting definition of what “committed” means.) In fact, when Vice Mayor Pariser asked for current reserves Manager Willams noted they were $9.8 million – another incorrect remark. If the Manager has not been able to review his copy of the Budget, he could always check it on the Village Website – that where all this information comes from.

At the last budget meeting, the Mayor accused me of disseminating misinformation, but it’s the Mayor and Village Manager that continue to mislead the public. But what is of further concern is that no other Council member corrected the financial information that was being disseminated. Somebody needs to be looking at the numbers. At least one Council Member, though, had the good sense to vote against the budget. It seems to me that there is enough to go the State Attorney’s office involved.

And as a personal aside, Eve [Boutsis, village attorney], I’m not being superfluous and inflammatory as you have accused me of previously – but you can only cover up the current administration’s incompetency for so long. I’m planning on making an appointment at the State Attorney’s office sometime this week if you would like to join me.

It is far from palatable what is occurring at Village Hall. Budgeting and correct financial records are a bedrock of any democracy. I guess the only transparency in the Village of Palmetto Bay resides in Meighan Alexander’s office where information is provided on a timely basis.

There used to be a saying when I was working in public accounting “NUMBERS DON’T LIE, PEOPLE DO.”

I look forward to seeing everyone at the Wednesday event [the State of the Village speech by Mayor Stanczyk].

David Singer

THERE WILL BE MORE INFORMATION TO FOLLOW.

SDM Wonders: Why wouldn’t Finance Director meet with a resident who has a question about the budget? If he was told not to meet with Mr. Singer, who gave the order and why? Inquiring minds want to know.

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