Palm Beach Gardens City Council Mtg 7/19 – a Call to Action

Palm Beach Gardens residents should be aware of several items on the Agenda (and one that no longer is):

Ordinance 11, 2011 – not on Agenda:

Second reading of Ordinance 11, 2011 was removed from the agenda.  This was the ordinance that made the change, among other things, to the election run-off process – essentially eliminating run-off except in the case of a tie.  Purportedly this would save between $10000 and $40000 or so per run-off.  Changes to the charter require a referendum – and so too would this change.  According to Max Lohman, City Attorney – this change will be considered for the upcoming charter review, changes to which will require citizen votes.  Had it been on the agenda – it would have passed and parts of it would have not have been valid without referendum.  What would that have cost the city?

Ordinance 13, 2011, Increasing the Local Communications Service Tax Rate – First Reading:

This 2012 budget related item would increase the Local Communications Service Tax from its current rate of 1.5% to the maximum allowed by state statutes to 5.22%  effective January 1, 2012, “on all sales of communications services within the City. These services include telephone (including cellular), cable TV, and internet fees, both residential and commercial.”  This is technically a 248% increase!  But it will probably be described as ‘pennies a day’!

The effects of the proposed change on two sample residents with annual communication charges of $2,400 and $3,600 are illustrated in the table below:  

Average Annual Bill Increase in Rate Annual Increase Monthly Increase
$2400 3.72% $90 $7.50
$3600 3.72% $135 $11.25

The adoption of the 5.22% Local Communications Services Tax is an integral component of the fiscal year 2012 budget plan, and, if approved, will allow the City to maintain the same operating ad valorem tax rate of 5.7404 mills.

This TAX is expected to bring in $1.8 million in the next budget cycle and $2.4 million thereafter.  Note that if your phone, cellular, internet and cable charges go up – so too will the city’s revenue be enhanced.

While I have not reviewed the proposed 2012 budget in detail, “The total budget for all funds of $108,580,228 is $3,140,160, or 3% more than the current year’s total of $105,440,068.”

Ordinance 14, 2011 -Amending Chapter 1, General Provisions, Section 1-2, Definitions of the City Code of Ordinances to Add Five (5) Definitions to be Compatible with the New Inspector General (IG) Ordinance. – First Reading

The drafting committee failed to include certain crucial definitions within the IG ordinance. The City Attorney has advised that without defining the following terms it will be impossible to properly evaluate any potential findings of an Inspector General investigation. Accordingly, the City Attorney has drafted Ordinance 14,201 1 in order to adopt definitions for “abuse”, “fraud”, “misconduct”, “mismanagement”, and “waste” into the City’s Code of Ordinances. Clear and unambiguous definitions are an absolute necessity in order to preserve an objective standard for evaluating any potential wrongdoing. These definitions are being recommended to each of the other 38 municipalities in the county.”

Having attended each of the drafting committee meetings – these so called ‘crucial’ definitions were intentionally left out and the subject of several months of intense debate.  I consulted with the Inspector General, Sheryl Steckler about the attempt by municipalities to insert these definitions into their city codes.  She replied that it has no impact or relevance on her activities as Inspector General.

Why are we adding irrelevant definitions to our ordinance and what is it costing the taxpayer in staff time and effort if it is for nothing?

Resolution 33, 2011 Adopting a Proposed Maximum Millage Rate for Fiscal Year 2011/2012 and Setting the Date, Time, and Place for the First Budget Hearing.

I read this resolution first and was going to praise the City Council on holding the millage rate flat at 5.7404, 2.719% below the roll-back rate of 5.9008 mills.  NOT.  They should be holding the millage flat, cut spending and NOT implement the increase in the Communications TAX.

I have not studied the 2012 budget in detail yet – however:

“Please note the following significant items related to the use of reserves:
• The planned use of $1.1 million is less than total General Fund capital expenditures of $1.2 million, and adheres to the City’s policy of using reserves for one-time expenditures.
• The planned use of $1.1 million is predicated on the increase in the Local Communications Services Tax from 1.5% to 5.22%. This will generate approximately $1.9 million next fiscal year. Without this alternative revenue, or an equivalent tax increase, the reduction in reserves would be approximately $3 million.”

We are in bad economic times – this is the time for using reserves and NOT increasing a tax (the Communications tax) that will never go down.  Hold the millage flat, do NOT approve Ordinance 13,2011 and cut spending further to minimize the hits to reserves!

 Additional materials can be found:

7/19 Agenda Overview/Handout

Complete 7/19 Agenda with backup documents

Cover Letter to 2012 Proposed Budget

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