PB Guest Post By David Singer: One Foot in the Rabbit Hole, One Foot Out.
After a week of trying to get through over three-and-a-half hours of the 2013/2014 final budget meeting for the Village of Palmetto Bay, I can finally proclaim success. I’ve got a headache and I’m a little nauseous but I’ve finished a magical journey through the rabbit hole to Wonderland where the characters may change throughout the years, but the results seem to stay the same.
I can tell you one thing: there are no fiscal conservatives in Wonderland, with maybe the exception of John Dubois. Both Patrick Fiore and Tim Schaffer claim to be, but they have not shown the ability to stare down Village Manager Ron Williams when it comes to controlling the costs of the Village. In fact, both Council members, along with Mayor Shelley (I’ve-never-seen-a-dollar-I-didn’t-want-to-spend Stanczyk) and Councilwoman Joan Lindsay, voted for the final 2013-2014 budget with no substantive reduction or any significant cuts to the Village’s operating cost. John Dubois voted wisely against the 2013/2014 budget.
At the same time, I found while visiting Wonderland, you can’t get a straight answer from either Ron Williams or Finance Director Desmond Chin. I guess bureaucracy runs as wild as a pack of cards where no one wants tell the real truth. A question: is telling a half the story when being asked a question considered a lie or is it just covering their bureaucratic butts? I watched various council members question Ron William and Desmond Chin who both hopped away as fast as any rabbit I’ve ever seen to avoid telling a full story. Their tails were never really caught until a second or third follow up question.
In Wonderland, if Councilwoman Joan Lindsay ever fell off the Queen’s mile-high soap box she’d probably lose her head. It’s amazing that anyone who disagrees with the Councilwoman gets a teacher-driven rant and rave that you’d only see in a 7th grade class (review 2:55 minutes into the Final Budget Hearing.) Her condescending schoolmarm tone against her fellow council members is only common to strict and old-fashioned pedagogues in need of controlling classrooms of prepubescent teenagers.
Residents of the Village should be greatly disappointed in the Council, the Village Manager and the overall budgeting process. As stated at the meeting, the Council seems to feel that Village reserves will be completely depleted in the next 5-7 years. The only potential revenue-producing savior is a redevelopment plan to the Franjo Triangle, which could possibly take over 10 years to result in the benefit from an increase in the commercial tax base.
The absolute fact is the Council let us – the residents of the Village of Palmetto Bay – down. With the exception of John Dubois, they voted for an inflated budget with the full knowledge it was indeed inflated. It was even discussed during the Council meeting by various council members that it had the potential to be inflated so the Village Manager would look better if actual expenses at the end of the year beat expectations set by the budget. This is an old trick used by budgeting personnel who need to look good to their employers for evaluation purposes. The problem is that even if Mr. Williams beats his numbers, he’s still over-spending.
Afterwards, so happy were they for pulling the Mad Hatter’s hat over the Council’s eyes, it was rumored that Ron Williams, Desmond Chin and the Dormouse rejoiced over a spot of tea to revel in their victory. As for us, the residents of Palmetto Bay, we are left to swim in a sea of tears.
SDM Note: Mr. Singer’s commentary aligns well with SDM’s view of the village budget process, but we cannot help but elaborate a little. One cannot consider a village’s budgeting practices to be professional unless revenues and expenditures are realistic. The village’s end of year surplus never seems to match even remotely that which is projected at the beginning of the budget year. So the obvious question is why should village taxpayers contribute more money to village coffers than the government will realistically expend? A corollary question is – assuming the expenditures were necessary and desirable when the budget was adopted – why can’t the village manager successfully implement the spending he projects?
SDM Says: Either the budget includes items that are not true priorities or the village lacks competent management to implement those priorities. SDM tends to believe the former is true, though more and more the latter seems to be the actual case. Perhaps the Vice Mayor should include a section on achieving spending goals as part of the village manager’s review process.