PB: Big Expensive Plans, Big Expensive Disagreement

by SDM

The January 7th Palmetto Bay Council meeting offered viewers the rare opportunity to listen to an actual policy debate. The topic was somewhat dry: an item to purchase equipment used for maintaining parks.

At approximately 1:04 into the meeting, Village Manager Ron Williams interrupts Vice Mayor John Dubois as he explains his philosophical opposition to in-sourcing what historically have been outsourced services. SDM found Mr. Dubois’ arguments to be both carefully considered and respectfully delivered.

Apparently the manager felt the need to interrupt the Vice Mayor to say that he totally disagreed with Mr. Dubois’ arguments. In a direct contradiction to Mr. Dubois, Mr. Williams said his staff could repair in-house the John Deere equipment the village proposes to purchase! (Now the village is going to create a John Deere motor pool?)

Around this time, Mr. Dubois attempted to regain the floor, but Mr. Williams’ temper flared as he demanded “let me finish, please!” Mr. Williams went on to say that many local governments have been hurt by outsourcing and by throwing “contracts out to folks with no controls…”

Aside – SDM Wonders: If the village is throwing out contracts to folks with no controls, whose fault is that Mr. Manager?

After the village manager’s outburst, Mr. Dubois continued (1:05), noting that the village’s employee base had jumped from 29 to 49, largely based on“bloating of our budget from in-sourcing projects like this…”

A moment later, the manager confirmed that the village has 49 full-time employees now, though he disputed the 29 figure.

Well, this little contretemps got SDM to thinking… SDM’s first thought was that this manager is really asserting himself all of a sudden. That he did so in such a rude fashion was out-of-bounds and misplaced, but at least he is growing a pair.

SDM’s second thought was to wonder whether Mr. Dubois was right, so SDM looked through some past budgets and came up with the chart below. (Ron Williams’ first budget was the 2007-08 Fiscal Year.)

Year Proposed Final Adopted Total Employees

Year Proposed Final Adopted Total Employees
05-06

16 FT – 14 PT

18 FT – 13 PT

31

07-08

31 FT – 17 PT

23 FT – 19 PT

42

09-10

37 FT – 23 PT

37 FT – 23 PT

60

10-11

42 FT – 23 PT

43 FT – 27 PT

70

12-13

49 FT – 38 PT

87*

*If the Manager fills all slots and does not add any additional positions.

Village expenditures for Williams’ first budget were expected to be $14.4 million. His latest budget calls for expenditures of $22.2 million. This is a 35% increase over a five-year period. Over the same period, full-time employees have increased by 63%, part-time employees by 66% and total employees by 64%, assuming Mr. Williams’ empire grows according to his plans.

Even if SDM is to correct for taking in-house the building  planning and zoning functions, which account for about 17 employees, Palmetto Bay’s employee base has still grown dramatically.

For comparison, neighboring Pinecrest has more employees but also operates an in-house police department. Pinecrest had a total of 85 non-police employees in the 07-08 fiscal year and is projecting 94 such employees for 12-13. This represents a five-year growth pattern of 10%.

Mayor Stanczyk commented at 1:08 that Palmetto Bay residents want quality, not a “thrift store” government.  A price increase of 35% over five years certainly qualifies as luxurious in SDM’s mind.

SDM Says: Vice Mayor Dubois is right and his point is timely. Clearly the early plan of Palmetto Bay’s founders to operate a lean village is gone, replaced by a budgetary growth rate that might make a Congressman – though apparently not a village manager – blush.

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