Relief for Tax Payer Residents Who are Hurting in a Recession, or
Keep Squirreling It Away for “City Emergencies”/Questionable Expenditures
The city has well over $20 million in unrestricted surplus funds that it could use to provide tax and fee relief to a community in the depths of a severe recession.
One would think that the staff and city would be tightly controlling expenses and giving relief to the residents.
Yet, the city staff and commission have so far proposed:
1. An increase in the actual $’s most of us will pay for our home taxes---not the tax rate, just the tax dollars out of your wallet.
2. An increase in the fire assessment fee that every resident property owner will pay
3. A further 4% increase in your water fees on top of the 20.5% they have imposed since the Spring of 2008. That is a total increase of 25% in less than 2 years
4. A new expense of $3.2 million in FY 2010 to be spent on replacing water meters.
The staff proposes to borrow the money. With interest, we are talking a total cost of between $4.5 and $4.75 million.
A. One of the “benefits” of the new meters is that they will capture about 8% more of the water flow to homes that the existing meters miss. The immediate downside to residents, thanks to the new meters, is that we will show an 8% increase in water usage and will pay about 8% more for water. So, for 2010 you will pay about 12.3% more than today and a total increase of about 35% more than in early ‘08.
Some on the commission and staff seem to believe that the city government should not touch its accumulated, very ample and excessive surpluses to provide residents with such “non-essential” things as tax and water fee relief. They seem to say that those surpluses are only to be used in “emergencies”---like hurricanes.
They certainly are not talking about making residents’ economic emergencies a priority--in a recession.
What they don’t say is that the city uses those surpluses all the time for non-emergency and favored projects. More about that in another article.
Facts about hurricane “emergencies”.
The city had to deal with hurricanes in 2004 and 2005 ( Wilma, October 2005 ). There was some wind damage in 2003/004 and considerable damage with Wilma. The city government took care of recovery, repairs and replacements of city property, trees, roads, etc. The city used some of its surplus funds, while applying for and receiving assistance---including FEMA.
Here is what the city reported to the State of Florida as its surpluses during and after those years.
2003 to 2007
Year /Surplus /Cumulative Surplus
2003 /$3,875,000 /$3,875,000
Fairly normal year. City budgets a
breakeven, but makes a surplus.
2004 /$5,052,000 /$8,927,000
Another surplus year for City
2005 /$6,469,000 /$15,396,000
City surplus increases after 2003/
2004 storm seasons. Wilma hits just
after the start of City’s FY 2006
2006 /$4,701,000 /$20,097,000
City makes a very good surplus even
while paying for Wilma.
2007 /$12,862,000 /$32,959,000
City makes a huge surplus as it
receives most FEMA recovery money.
1. We have had tropical storms and hurricanes. The city has, in no way, suffered any financial “emergency” because of hurricanes. When we had a major one, the City’s surpluses actually increased.
2. Some staff and some commissioners will need to get another excuse to justify keeping tax and water fee relief from the residents in a recession, while prioritizing the surpluses for their other projects. Some good, some mediocre and some just downright silly and “pork”.
3. The city staff and commission can well afford to provide the residents:
A. a 4% reduction in the property tax rate in 2010.
B. a 4% roll-back in the current water rates and forego the planned 4% increase for 10/1/09
C. a removal of the increase in the fire assessment fee
D. a postponement of the water meter project