South Dade Matters

Looking at the World South of Miami: Palmetto Bay, Cutler Bay, Pinecrest, South Miami and Miami-Dade County.

Category: Uncategorized

PB: An Endorsement to Ignore

In the “no surprise there” category, outgoing Councilwoman Joan Lindsay issued an endorsement of Mayor Shelley Stanczyk, which Mme. Mayor posted on her campaign site. Mrs. Stanczyk, er, Mrs. Lindsay makes a couple of claims that SDM decided to evaluate and analyze.

According to Lindsay:

Under her leadership as Mayor, Village reserves have grown to $13.6 million from $9 million in 2010…

The truth about the village’s unassigned fund balance (i.e., the “reserves”) is that they are expected to be about the same as the year Mrs. Stanczyk first took office (the first budget for which she is listed is FY 2006-07):

Year                      Fund Balance
FY 06-07             $9,034,987 (Actual)
FY 07-08             $13,589,615 (Actual)
FY 09-10             $15,502,780 (Actual)
FY 10-11             $8,573,042 (Actual)
FY 11-12             $9,500,714 (Actual)
FY 12-13             $10,453,169 (Actual)
FY 13-14             $10,035,468 (Estimated Final)
FY 14-15             $9,054,468 (Proposed Budget)

It’s hard to figure why Mme. Mayor wants to tout these figures, or even from where she is drawing them in the first place. Perhaps a better set of figures to look at is the ever-increasing number of employees Palmetto Bay residents pay for under the Stanczyk era:

Year                           Full Time           Part Time
FY 06-07 (Actual)          22                          20
FY 14-15 (Proposed)      53                          30

So, in about 8 years, Palmetto Bay almost doubled the number of regular employees. SDM can’t help but wonder why Mrs. Lindsay isn’t touting Mme. Mayor’s incredible ability to bloat our local bureaucracy.

As we’ve said in the past, we will miss Mrs. Lindsay’s intellect on a council that is in short supply of the quality. However, we won’t miss her selfish use of the village resources to wage the war on Palmer Trinity School, surely the most divisive campaign in the 10 year history of our little burgh. And, we won’t miss her incomprehensible slavish devotion to this failed mayor.

PB: How to Plan a Park

Palmetto Bay needs to rebuild, restore or replace the main building at Coral Reef Park according to village staff testimony during the recently concluded budget hearings.

Mayor Shelley Stanczyk, outgoing Councilwoman Joan Lindsay and Councilman Tim “Marathon Man” Schaffer all voted to retain a $10 million “place marker” in the capital section of the budget ostensibly for this purpose.

Vice Mayor John Dubois and Councilman Patrick Fiore (a candidate for Mayor) voted against keeping the $10 million line item because: (a) there is zero chance the village will spend the money during the budget year, because (b) nobody knows what this building would look like or what its programming would be.

cart-before-horse-2

As Dubois and Fiore rightly point out, the administration’s proposal puts the cart before the horse.

Now, there is a better way. Did you see yesterday’s Miami Herald story on the new park proposed for Wynwood? A private individual funded an international architectural competition to come up with a design that would transform his parking lot into an iconic public space. The result is pretty darn cool:

Wynwood Greenhouse Credit Azeez Bakare

The lesson here is that the private individual laid out some general parameters and then asked some clever people to deliver a design that would capture the imagination.

The Village of Palmetto Bay could try something similar. First step is to imagine what the village wants – within reason. For example, we don’t need to build something that competes with private owners (think: gyms, wedding venues, gun ranges :) ). We probably could use a public gathering space for indoor and partially indoor events. As a village we shouldn’t be too quick to jump on any one concept or, likewise, too quick to dismiss realistic options.

SDM Says: Once the Village People decide what we want and have a basic understanding of what we can afford, why not try our own competition and see what the world suggests? Maybe there’s an opportunity for a public-private partnership, too. The point is, while the horse’s ass must be in front of us that doesn’t mean we must be led by one. :)

PB: Fact Checking Mayor Stanczyk

Yesterday, SDM harangued Mayor Shelley Stanczyk for her terrible idea of raising taxes for Palmetto Bay’s policing unit. In that post, we repeated a statement Mrs. Stanczyk made where she claimed the village paid $4.6 million for police when she joined the village council. In fact, that statement is wrong, but it pales in comparison to the rest of what we discovered.

First, let’s fact check Mrs. Stanczyk. The first village budget that lists Mrs. Stanczyk as a member of the council is for the 2006-07 fiscal year. The actual cost for the policing unit in FY 2005-06 was $5,651,266 and in FY 2006-07 it was $5,768,938. She was only off by a million bucks…not bad for eight years on the council.

That Mrs. Stanczyk misstated a fact is not the surprise that caused SDM to write this post today, however. If you remember yesterday’s post, Mrs. Stanczyk said her tax increase proposal would be “a tool that you can use to provide for the continuing safety that we feel that a correct number of officers – our officers do a great job we want to continue to have that excellent service.” (We know, she has a way with words.)

Implicit in her statement is that there is a “correct number” of police officers and, SDM presumes since she wants more money, that we haven’t reached that number yet. Which begs the question, how many officers did we have when Mrs. Stranczyk started and are we at a number that is more correct today?

Remember, next year’s budget calls for $7.2 million to be devoted to Palmetto Bay’s policing unit, which is an increase of approximately $1.55 million or 17.4% over the amount we paid when Mrs. Stanczyk first darkened the council’s door. Councilman Schaffer told us that police officers cost about $150,000 each per year, so we should be seeing a pretty big jump in police staffing, right?

Wrong. In FY 2006-07, the Palmetto Bay policing unit employed 33 officers and 15 support employees (including some officers who are administrators) for  a total of 48 personnel. The projected budget for FY 2014-15 budgets for 35 officers and 11 support employees (including one fewer sergeant than 2006-07) for a total of 46 personnel.

Got that? After eight interminable, or so it feels, years of the Stanczyk administration, the police budget has bloated by $1.5 million and it employs fewer people than it did when she joined the council! (She can’t even claim to have added 2 officers because the village employs one fewer sergeant, which is also an “officer.”)

SDM Says: If staffing levels equal service (which they don’t), then Palmetto Bay police “service” has declined during Mayor Stanczyk’s tenure while at the same time becoming far more expensive.  You can’t make this s@$% up.

Note to David Singer: Maybe somebody ought to ask Mme. Mayor why she continues to claim that police service has improved during her tenure, when by her definition it clearly hasn’t.

+++

Snarky Bonus Mini-Post:

While reading through the 2006-07 budget, SDM ran across this little nugget on page 7:

Fire-Rescue Commitment – Palmetto Bay, with the assistance of our colleagues and partners at Miami-Dade County, has secured a commitment from the Miami-Dade Fire Department to locate 2 new fire stations on the east side of the Village. This is a major achievement.

Eight long years later and Mayor Stanczyk still has not fulfilled the Fire-Rescue Commitment, now THAT is a major achievement…not. :)

PB: Budget Part II, Fire Station – The Shelley Show Fail

The Stanczyk Tax Increase Plan In Her Own Words

Have you heard the latest brilliant idea from your tax and spend village mayor? After confessing that since she took office that the cost of police services in the village rose from $4.6 million to today’s budget of about $7.2 million (a stunning revelation in and of itself), Mayor Shelley Stanczyk proposed for the second time creating a separate millage rate just for police services. See budget meeting at 44:00 through 46:00.

Stanczyk initially stated that her preferred rate would be “0.1.” She went on to explain that Palmetto Bay’s ad valorem taxes do not yield enough revenue to cover the current police budget, yet another startling revelation from a Mayor who is pinning her re-election chances partly on her stewardship of the village budget.

Before we analyze the idea, let’s read the Mayor’s own words:

While at this point, when I was first elected, we paid $4.6 million on police, police continues to increase just as salaries increase, contracts change to allow for increased services, increased benefits, increased insurance…those are carry backs. Those are things that carry back to us because we pay a cost plus contract.So each year if the cost of an individual officer increases, even though we are under contract, we are going to bear some increase in cost.

And I think, in discussions with the manager, we’ve talked about the fact that in the future we may want to set a millage that’s separate – separate out and carve out our millage – to allow for adequate police services.

So that millage that’s connected directly and only to police, for instance, if it raised point-zero-one, it would only go to police. So that you have – while no one wants to raise taxes, no one wants to do that, but the priority in this village has been safety and security. And that’s a tool that you can use to provide for the continuing safety that we feel that a correct number of officers – our officers do a great job we want to continue to have that excellent service.

Aside from the rambling, would creating a separate millage rate for police – as the mayor outlined the proposal – work?

Let’s start with the Mayor’s proposed rate. Understand that that Palmetto Bay’s current millage rate (property tax) is 2.447 and it is projected to yield about $5.7 million next year.  And, the Mayor is right that the property tax isn’t sufficient to pay the projected police budget of $7.2 million.

So how would a separate millage rate of – let’s be generous and help the Mayor out – of say 1.0 (1 mill) pay for the police department? Well, of course it wouldn’t. Mrs. Stanczyk’s tax increase would would be new money on top of the existing police budget. The fact is that the police budget is starting to crowd out other priorities in this village, which was predictable when the council started adding officers even though the police chief didn’t ask for them and the manger said we didn’t need them.

SDM Says: It’s obvious that Mayor Stanczyk knows of no other way to manage a budget unless her options are either to raid reserves or to raise taxes. She won’t consider economizing or taking a serious look at whether we are getting our money’s worth from the Miami-Dade County contract.  More police does not equate to less crime or more security and this mayor just doesn’t get it.

Fire Station Fail

If Mrs. Stanczyk’s insistence on a tax increase doesn’t get you to look at one of her challengers, then surely the cluster-fire she’s created on locating a north-end fire station ought to do it.

SDM News Flash: One little factoid really caught SDM’s attention during Mayor Stanczyk’s smarmy lecture on the history of the fire station. Did you know that Palmetto Bay hired a lobbyist for $50,000 to secure a few acres of the USDA property at the corner of SW 136th Street and SW 67th Avenue? Stanczyk noted that the effort failed. Are we adding this number to the cost of the fire station fiasco? Inquiring minds would like to learn more about this little nugget.

SDM has opined in the past that we need a northern fire station. We also have no problem with the so-called “Farmer Road” site.

Aside to Candidate Dave Zisman: You almost had us fooled. You’ve been doing your door-to-door thing and sounding reasonable. You even came out in favor of the Farmer Road site, which is near your home, the last time it appeared on a council agenda. Then, you got some political religion, right? You decided that this issue was just too ripe not to pick from the political tree of chaos. Now, you’ve decided to flip your position and oppose the site near your house because of your objections to the site plan. We see through you, Dave, and your flip-flop bodes ill for a council seat. Beware all you Palmetto Bay voters – this guy can’t change his stripes permanently.

We also have no problem with a site across the street from the Farmer Road site, which apparently is also under contract by Miami-Dade Fire Rescue.

Here’s our problem: This village doesn’t need another war between groups of property owners. The fire department ought to pick a location and take it to the council one time. This plan where two sites are put in play for negotiation reasons is a recipe for antagonism and unnecessary bad feelings.

SDM Says: The Mayor, as soon as she heard about this new location going under contract, should have deferred the Farmer Road decision. She should have called a meeting with her staff and the County Mayor and pushed them to make one choice. It’s tough to locate these kind of facilities. We don’t need an incompetent mayor muddling the process even more.

Guest Post By David Singer: A New $10 Million Dollar Hot Dog Stand?

Tonight’s budget hearing is expected to be the last in which Mayor Shelley Stanczyk and Village Manager Ron Williams will be attending from the dais. As it stands now Mayor Stanczyk is polling either 3rd or 4th in Mayor’s race and Village Manager Williams contract will expire the first quarter of 2015. During their tenure, both have brought controversy to the Village and in the eyes of Village residents, it’s apparently time for them both to bid a fond farewell.

Unfortunately, for the residents of Palmetto Bay before they leave they are attempting to saddle the Village with the largest budget in Village history. If the 2014/2015 budget passes as currently proposed, it will have financial ramifications on Village residents for years to come.

I’m not going to waste time in this blog addressing the proposed decrease in police protection, increase in Village employees and staff payroll raises. Instead I’ll focus on a couple of large line items which will cause an increase in property taxes within the next 3-5 years if approved.

The most egregious budgeted line item is a $10 million dollar slush fund set up for Coral Reef Park. This capital improvement project, which equates to approximately 60% of annual Village Revenue, has no detail as to how the money is to be utilized. No pictures, no financial data, no time projections, no details, nothing. The Village Manager and Financial Director could not present any information to the Council at the last budget meeting as to where exactly $10 million dollars would be spent; they could only to say it was a place holder.

If rumors I’ve heard from various Village staff member are true, they are actually planning on razing the Million Dollar hotdog stand that is barely four years old with part of this slush fund. I also heard this money is going to be spent on a community center which will have round-the-clock lighting and will require night time operations as well as membership fees required both of resident and non-village residents along with more employees to operate it. Nobody actually in the Village knows where this money is to be spent, the actual final costs or the yearly operational expenses.

Since spending $10 million dollars at Coral Reef Park would reduce the Village reserves to basically nothing, I can only assume the Village is planning on issuing bonds to complete any work that is planned at the park. This would require yearly debt service by the Village thus increasing required revenue from Village residents.

Does the Council actually believe there is one resident in Palmetto Bay which would support the budgeting and expenditure of $10 million dollars without a plan of action or a detail of where the money will be spent? What is the Village Manager thinking? What are any council members who vote for this slush fund thinking?

To make matters worse, the $10 million budgeted for Coral Reef Park is not the only park expenditure the Council is voting on without any detail. There is at least $ million more budgeted to be spread around at Palmetto Bay Park and Perrine Park without any real detail. I guess these are place holders too. Total capital budgeted this year is approximately S$17 Million Dollars with $12 Million going to our various parks without any detail. This is what I consider your municipal government at work.

There is a lot to criticize about this year’s budget presented by the Village Manager Williams and Finance Director Chin. Most of the budgeted expenditures can be corrected after their departure since they only have an effect on the 2014-2015 fiscal year. A $10 million dollar slush fund is one that can’t be easily fixed and the Council must do what’s in the Village’s best interest by voting to remove it at tonight’s budget hearing.

David Singer

PB: Guest Post By David Singer

Where’s the Fire?

On September 22nd, the Village of Palmetto Bay will hold a zoning meeting to discuss a potential site for a new Palmetto Bay Fire Station at 14200 Old Cutler Rd. The zoning meeting to approve the residential lot next door to St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church isn’t as much the story as is the length of time it has taken to procure a new fire station – and why its approval is being rushed when a preferable site is located directly across the street.

For over 6 years, the Village of Palmetto Bay has desired and desperately needed two new fire stations to serve the east side of the Village. Now, two months before the election, Mayor Stanczyk and Council are rushing to approve an inferior site which boarders a predominately residential neighborhood and Farmers Road.

The reason this particular site is now being pressed is mainly due to the fact that during her term as Mayor, Shelley Stanczyk has ignored the fact that residents in the northeast section of the Village have not received the same commitment to, “Life Safety” as other residents of the Village. In fact, over the past three years the subject of a new Fire Rescue Station has been brought to the Mayor’s attention ad nauseam by various member of the community, including Peter England.

So what’s the rush now? It’s a game of politics – a subject that can now be used by the Mayor as a poker chip during election time. She now plans to push and approve an inferior site for her political advantage.

One of the main problems with the site scheduled to be approved on September 22nd by Mayor and Council is the poor ingress/egress access.

Additionally, you would hope the Mayor and Council would understand the residential site next to St Andrew’s Church is not only inferior, but will probably lead to litigation from the neighbors, and will cost the Village real estate tax revenue.

Thankfully, there IS a superior site available – and directly across the street, on Old Cutler Road.

Anyone with knowledge of both sites would agree the location for the Fire Station should be developed next to Old Cutler Presbyterian Church. Here are several reasons:

• The Presbyterian site is $200,000 LESS than the residential location adjacent to St. Andrew’s. At a time when local governments don’t have any money, why would the Council approve to pay $200,000 more for the St. Andrew’s location?

• The Presbyterian site is owned by the Church and has never paid any property taxes.

• The site on Old Cutler and Farmers Road is a private house and historically paid its fair share of property tax. By converting residential property to a Fire Station location it will cost both Dade County and Palmetto Bay millions of dollars in tax revenue.

• The ingress/egress on the Presbyterian site is superior and will not require fire trucks to drive down a predominately narrow winding residential road that is well-traveled by pedestrians, dog walkers, joggers, bike riders and over 1200 cars a day. The abundance of overhanging trees that line Farmers Road will also be an issue for the large fire trucks.

• For a Council historically committed to traffic and noise control, it is puzzling that they are set to approve fire trucks traveling down a residential street that will disturb the peaceful enjoyment of all Farmers Road residents.

• Both sites are approximately the same size with the Presbyterian Church site being 50,965 sq. ft. (approximately 1.16 acres) and the residential site being 60,113 sq. ft. (1.38 acres). The Presbyterian Church has twice the frontage on Old Cutler Road as the residential location.

With all due respect to the present Council, the vote to approve the new Palmetto Bay Fire Station should be delayed until the proper due diligence is conducted and the best site for the Fire Station is confirmed. It has already taken the Village seven years and counting to arrive at this point – what real difference does a 30-60 day extension of the site approval process mean when the goal is the selection of the best location to serve all of the resident’s needs?

David Singer

PB: Bike Paths and the Budget

SDM couldn’t resist a second post today.

During Monday night’s budget discussions, a local resident discussed bike paths and parks. This gentleman regularly comments at council meetings and is focused like a laser on making Palmetto Bay bike-friendly and walk-friendly. He nags and cajoles the council relentlessly to improve these services and you can see the results of his efforts all over the village.

SDM wants to give this gentleman credit for the improvements (?) to the bike path on the East side of Old Cutler, but the project was executed so poorly that we are going to allow him to keep his anonymity in the fear that he may be associated with a shabby mess.

Do you walk, run or ride your bike on the Old Cutler bike path? Then you know that someone, we think it’s the village, paid a bunch of money for striping and marking the path. As one enters or exits the path, helpful stripes and signs show a path user the correct side to traverse. (Is this really necessary? But we digress.)

If you are a regular or even infrequent user of the bike path, you’ve probably seen the mess the vendor made. The striping is the standard road marking – kind of a burnt umber color. But before the vendor laid down the striping, it spray painted white markings all over the place. The problem is the burnt umber markings don’t coincide with the white spray paint.

The result is so ugly that someone went out with a can of black spray paint and tried to paint over the visual nightmare.

SDM Wonders: How much did the village – or the county- pay to this vendor for such an ugly, shabby job?

SDM thinks we should get our money back.

And, if we are planning on installing bike paths and markings elsewhere in Palmetto Bay, we need to ensure the vendor follows its contract. Nobody deserves to have such shabby work painted on the street or sidewalk in front of her home.

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