I’ve lost that game show feeling…

It turns out the quick list of items which I found to be of concern in the Proposed Budget is not short at all, and yet it’s by no means complete. I merely perused it. I am no accountant, and only provide this for those who won’t bother to crack a look at the full document. The commentary that follows is a citizen’s view and just shows the questions one might be left with after scanning the innumerable pages for a couple hours or so. I hope you will check it out for yourself. There’s more there than what I had time make note of. I don’t know how they’ll have time to get to it all in one meeting tomorrow tonight either. Best of luck to all involved.

Disclaimer: Further reading may cause loss of “that game show feeling“. 

Salaries – First and foremost, this is where some of the biggest winners will be found dancing their happy dance. But why isn’t each employee’s total salary with benefits shown like the adopted budget for this year did? This makes it appear that we pay employees way less than we do, and it’s quite misleading. The benefits for some are upwards of $40,000. Add that to their salary and you’ll see a nice spike. You’ll have to work a little to do the math and figure out true employee totals for this upcoming budget! Let’s just say, if some of these town employees you pay were on the real Let’s Make a Deal, they’d be planting one huge kiss on Monty Hall’s cheek over their winnings!

A 13% increase in insurance premiums – I don’t know about you, but at my house, when there isn’t enough money for something, you do without. I recently had to cancel my own health insurance because it was out of control and I couldn’t afford it. Why then, if we are having to cut services to Police, Fire and Sanitation, and cutting some employees jobs, are we not cutting these expensive employee benefits? This is an entitlement mindset at work and it needs to change. Furthermore, there is always the option of changing plans and merely reducing benefits. A 13% increase is worth doing something about.

The town manager’s car payment! She gets the Let’s make a deal dream prize. The one every contestant hoped for. When I see this I get the urge to jump up and down and yell too, only not for quite the same reasons as the winner. Gosh, I know, I shouldn’t be a sore loser. I’m sure the Town Manager is happy. $575.00 a month for Ms. Davis’ car allowance; that’s something…more than many people in this town pay for mortgage, interest, insurance and property taxes put together for the homes they live in, while they drive old clunkers hoping they can coax a few more years out of them. This cost of this benefit doesn’t seem to correlate to the town she serves. I can understand if Town Managers are routinely provided car allowances in boom years, but these are tough times and this isn’t a for profit company. This is a small town. Why does someone who already makes the kind of salary she does need such an extravagant entitlement?

Organizational and associational dues and memberships for the Town Manager, HR, IT and a number of others. This adds up. What do we get for these? I’ll suggest we get a lot of plans and policies that many would be amazed at and which have placed our town in some of the situations we find ourselves in right now. I dare say the CRA may have come to us in part by way of ideas born of these associations. Beware the influences that speak into your leaders lives. These groups have power and influence and citizens would do well to know what their goals are. With the recent indictments of the Palm Beach County officials that led to arrests and jail time, it might be a good idea to at least look into the Palm Beach County affiliations we have, not to mention the International associations. Get ready, global governance is closer than you think. (ICMA)

One of the Palm Beach County memberships costs over $5,000 a year for the Town Manager alone. I repeat, what are we getting for these? How does this affect our town and the direction we go? “Moving forward?” Have you ever heard that phrase in our town? You might want to ask, “Toward what?” I’d like to know anyway. Who are the players in these organizations to which we are beholden? We also pay for the CRA to be members of Planners chapters. Each of these groups has certain goals. I can tell you now to begin watching for sustainable development. Many things rise from this beast. We will look into that soon.

Employee cell phones – According to the budget, we spend quite a bit on the town land lines and then also service to those lines. Why then do we pay for cell phones for a host of employees on top of it. I have no qualms about saying, “Use the phone in your office and use your own cell phone when you leave!” How about that? None of you are that important or needy. I see your salaries. You’re doing quite well and a cell phone is hardly integral to any one of your jobs. A separate cell phone paid for by citizens is a luxury at work. This town is the size of postage stamp. If you leave town hall and have to drive down Park Avenue or over to the Marina, live a little, take your chances out there in the great wide world for those few minutes in your car. I’m pretty sure you have a phone of your own you can use in an emergency. If not, maybe you should live like the citizens who fund your lives and purchase your own.

What about the Lobbyist we pay $13,500? What are we lobbying for and what has the money we’ve spent on this in times past gotten us? If it ever got us anything, what was our cost in maintenance and upkeep for it after it was in our care? Shouldn’t our commissioners and the Mayor be our lobbyists if we ever needed one? Is this just another example of Lake Park’s (and our country’s) growing dependency and entitlement mindset? Wouldn’t we do well to pay our Mayor and Commissioners more and empower them to make our needs known to members of Congress if this is warranted? How much of our town’s focus is spent on begging other government entities for money between lobbyists and grant solicitation and then servicing those items once we receive them?

Why do we have a $5,000 advertising budget for HR in this proposed budget? If the town is having to get rid of some full time positions, making them part time, and is letting other employees go, why do we need this much money to advertise job openings? And why do we need to pay $7,000 for contractual services for pre-employment background screenings, drug tests, etc. if we are cutting back rather than adding employees?

Office equipment leases (copiers mainly?) are quite costly. Why do some of these offices not share equipment instead of each having their own with it’s associated contract? Has the prospect of purchasing instead of leasing been considered or any bids entertained? Competition should be pretty good right now. Couldn’t we do better? These companies thrive on one-upping their competition. The town has budgeted over $10,000 a year between the offices in contract maintenance alone for this equipment.

We pay combined bank charges over $10,000 a year between a couple of departments. Is this necessary and customary? Are there no better deals out there? Has the bank we use been compared with any others for a better deal?

What happens to the disaster relief budget if it isn’t used?

Contractual services seem to be a large part of our town budget throughout numerous departments. Are these reviewed and negotiated? The AC contracts seem quite costly and then we also budget for repairs each year on top of the maintenance, which I believe it stated is done quarterly. If we are receiving such routine and careful maintenance, should we really need repair each year as well? Wouldn’t that tell us that all the maintenance we paid for was wasted?

This is almost over, I promise. Think happy thoughts and just keep reading….

Community development/redevelopment is one costly endeavor. $108,200. Where is all this money going, and for what?! $25,000 of this, it appears, is set aside for an evaluation and appraisal report. For who and why? This budget is scheduled to increase by $3,200 this year. Huh? This raises some serious questions. People in this town are always saying they want the town to get things done. Well, first you have to ask yourself, what is a town’s first and foremost responsibility? Shouldn’t that be to protect the people, and yet we hear first about cut backs in the services that protect and serve us. Whose logic is this? Departments like Community Development are not only NOT cutting, they are increasing, and what do we as residents get for that?

Is the proposed Special Magistrate that was discussed at the last Commission meeting another gift to us, care of the CRA? The proposed budget says they offset the cost of the Special Magistrate with money from code violations. No wonder everyone feels the code guy is out to get them. He is! He has a lot to pay for. The CRA sure seems to be one high maintenance endeavor.

“Reasonable accommodation” could be costly and so we budget for this. (All I can say is beware the policies you allow to be put into place in every aspect of government. One thing leads to another and they always come back and hit you up for money over and over between legal fees and costs of implementation.)

The IT budget for KDT Services (tech support) for both town hall and the library is a large sum of money, over $20,000 between them. Really, what does the IT guy do full time if we are also covered at such an expense by another outside entity? Is this backup? Could these two be consolidated? Do we really need that much tech support, and if so, aren’t there better deals out there?

Library, $32,000 on books a year? Wow. Interesting.

Random other goodies. There are many small things that seem would be easy to cut. Some are relatively small amounts, but it sure has to all add up on top of the larger items. Worth looking at. For instance, why do we need to pay longevity pay to our grant writer in this day and time? Seems frivolous.

Thanks for reading my Citizen’s “Short” Budget Review and Commentary. I have now officially lost that game show feeling. I think I’ll go watch some more Let’s Make a Deal reruns to get me in the mood for tomorrow’s tonight’s performance at Town Hall. Hope you’ll be there. Show starts at 6:00 p.m.