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Here’s The Scoop … Lauderdale- By-The-Sea Millage Rate/Final Budget FY 2010/2011 … A Blue Ribbon Winner…

September 28, 2010 by Barbara

BLUE RIBBON BUDGET FY 2010/2011 ….

Dear Readers …another year ..another LBTS budget finalized and put to bed… This one was the launching pad for some on the dais for what we can expect over the next few years ….especially from the new Administration ….It was the beginning of a revamped way of running the town’s finances and allowing us to finally see what’s what …

The meeting began at 6 pm in Jarvis Hall with a small audience in attendance …but definitely larger than the norm of years past …when the concerned citizens could be counted on one hand… The Mayor called attention before addressing the first item of business…the millage rate to an addition that was being asked for to the budget by Acting Finance Director Doug Haag…It was explained by the Int. Town Manager and Mr. Haag… As previously posted we were faced with another glaring example of the Colon-led Administration falling down on the job and not including Sept. 2009 to be accrued in that fiscal year…leaving the new Administration to add it to this one… The amount approximately $80,000….as stated in the Sept. 27, 2010 Town Manager Report for the Comm.mtg. that followed this meeting…Ms. Hoffmann stated Mr. Haag found that each department will be able to cover that extra payroll with the exception of the Commission ….So an amount of $1,998 needed to be approved to add to the budget being finalized as item B. this evening… The Commission voted 5-0 to allow for the additional funds after a motion was made by Vice Mayor Dodd and a second from Comm. Vincent… Comm. Sasser asked if he would still be able to discuss this issue at the Commission meeting after the vote…He was assured it could be discussed…The Mayor said he could discuss it at this meeting but he said it did not impact the budget …

Public Comments were up first and resident and Editor of BTSfuture Mark Brown was the first t come to the podium…He commended the Commission, Town Manager, Asst. Town Manager on how far they were able to come ..He did some approximation of the shortfall as he saw it..$700,000 and another $250,000 for the payout to Colon leaving them with approximately a million give or take … He said with the 1 payroll of approximately $80,000 not paid  for payroll and the lack of interest coming from the multiple non-interest bearing accounts we have our funds in …(prev. posts) …he was concerned something else will arise and and the Commission by trying to retain the 3.9990 millage rate will be “digging a hole” for themselves…He stated “given the circumstances” that “no stigma” would arise for staying at the 4.09 rate …He spoke of other towns that have risen their rates …and it was his personal opinion to go with the 4.09…not seeing “any serious repercussions next year or this”..He said “I would understand , everyone would understand”….

Resident and MPSC Vice-Chair (This writer believes that is his proper title) Edmund Malkoon was up next and also commended the dais given the circumstances…He added that for next year’s CIP with the pads already installed for bus shelter for the A1A project they should include bus shelters…

Diane Boutin from the Windjammer Resort stated “Three’s the magic number”…”Kudos”…and spoke about all that put their heads together for the best balanced budget in a long time…She said we were now looking “3-5 years ahead”…”thinking fiscally responsibilities”…such as “lights on El Mar in turtle season”…She spoke about the future and growth from within…

Resident Ron Piersante had the budget and stated “Connie and Bud did a great job”…He addressed the tennis lighting stating very few use it at night…He spoke of a group who had a lot of influence and how it was not open to those over the bridge..He said to “scrap it”… (prev. post…and an update on the the usage rules? Comm mtg. post)…He stated “Mark Brown said a lot of what I said, why not up it a little. I don’ think most people would object a small increase”…”Shorten the gap”…”You’re not politicians up there, politicians don’t want to raise taxes “…”look at a slight increase”…He went on to state people spend $100- $200 at Aruba on a Friday or Saturday night…He wanted them to give it some thought and while he was not for raising taxes the next year it could be 6.7%… …

The TAtty. read the millage resolution and stated the rate would be 3.9990 …

Commissioner Sasser asked the Interim Town Manager to address the “key question from each one of the speakers ” asking if there were any “serious repercussions for next year keeping the millage rate where it is”…and were they “digging that hole Mr. Brown mentioned?”…

Ms. Hoffmann responded the “one big question”… “the biggest question that faces up is the renewal of the BSO contract and what impact that will have”… She said it “almost a given there will be a significant increase in that contract possibly several hundred thousand dollars”… She said that was the one thing she knows we have to worry about…She went on to state that hopefully as the economy improves some of our revenues dependent on the economy will as well…She made it clear that an improvement in the housing market will not benefit us due to Fl law and because we are staying at the same millage this year…She followed that up with stating “Are we doing anything that is radical or dangerous or foolhardy? No, no not at all.” …She ended by stating “The Town has ample reserves to draw on for the next several years.”…She did add that this Commission or another one may in the future may decide they “have to raise the millage rate but you’re not there right now.”…

Commissioner thanked and yielded… and the Mayor passed it along to the Vice Mayor who stated he had written something…

VM Dodd-“I am extremely pleased the interim town manager – soon to be confirmed as town manager has managed to get the millage rate down to 3.9990 but it does fill me with anticipation as we go forward into next year. There are a lot of cupboards that have yet to be opened and who knows what financial surprises will be lurking within. Who would have thought the town would have over 2 million dollars sitting in accounts that did not give even a dollar return on the money. Who knew that the previous administration’s accounting errors would leave a deficit necessitating this year to contain 27 accounting pay checks rather than 26. Who could predict that the water and sewer charges would be increased but such larger percentages? At every turn the town has been faced with increases. But before I vote for this year’s rate I would like to hear from the town manager, and we just did, that this rate will not leave the town in a very difficult position financially. I would also like to say now that I will not hesitate to raise the millage rate next year should it become necessary to do that. It matters not to me that it will be an election year but that this may well be the only option to be able to operate the town in a prudent manner. I campaigned on fiscal responsibility and I do have concerns that our actions of keeping the millage at 3.9990 may well be a popular move it may not be the best move in the interests of fiscal responsibility” and he yielded …. stating “that is his position and he would not fear or hesitate to raise the millage next year if that’s what it takes to run this town on a financially sound basis, thank you.”

Commissioner Clottey -” Yes, I’m glad we can keep the ah, current millage rate. I would also like to ask a question through the Chair of the Town Manager. Ah, it is my understanding that these type of accounting and I don’t really think they’re really errors about paychecks. Every so many years you wind up with twenty-seven paychecks instead of twenty-six. When you pay every tow weeks. I’ve been in places where this , this does happen. It’s not out of the ordinary. It doesn’t  happen every year but when it comes into a cycle then we have to be in a cycle this year.”

BC- The Int. Town Manager responded…and it was akin to watching O.J. put on the gloves… OOPS!…

Ms. Hoffmann- ” That’s true if you account on a cash basis which large organizations generally do not. We account for our funds on an accrual basis ans when you do that you’re supposed to accrue whatever portion of the final payroll occurs in the proper fiscal year. So for example, last year I think the last payroll ended on October second .” (She asked Mr Haag to confirm and he did confirm she was correct)”So, all of the paydays through September thirtieth should have been accrued.”..She went on to state it was the practice in prior years and appeared it was started last year but not completed.She continued “So, yes it is not accepted practice for a system that operates on an accrual basis and we do.”

Comm. Clottey thanked her “for that one” and went on to talk about the millage going up next year due to BSO…She stated people should know it will be due to BSO and they should “not be sweep it under the rug”…She stated that twice …She ended her comment with “That’s what transparency to me is all about”

BC- Comm. Clottey was just getting started with espousing faulty information on the dais this evening…

Mayor Minnet asked Comm. Vincent if he had any comment and he did not…so she took her turn…

Mayor Minnet-” I want to thank everyone who spoke.”…She said she understood all their comments…She went on to state ” But I think in light of what we are experiencing on the sewer side of thing the residents are going to be experiencing a substantial increase in their sewer rates coming up this year. So I think that I am going to vote to keep the town tax millage rate the way it is because I think that by them getting that increase on the sewer side is going to be enough. And next year we’ll have to analyze it again.” She stated that we all know BSO is coming with a new contract and “residents will understand that next year we will have to look at things a different way.”…She went on to state she was pleased that staff could keep the millage rate without sacrificing services or capital improvements..She also spoke of the visioning plan for the Master Plan and that it will be “exciting “…that it will “bring us forward into seeing what this community truly needs”…She ended by thanking staff, the Commissioners for working so hard and the residents and stating “I’m excited for this new year and we’re getting off to a very good start. Thank you.”

Vice Mayor Dodd made the motion with a second from Commissioner Clottey…passed 5-0…

The TAtty. read item B. the Resolution for adopting the new budget… There were no comments or discussion or questions…

BC- I must admit I was taken aback by this…and it caught me by surprise…. especially since I was well aware of the preparation made by these Commissioners all the way through the budget process right up to this evening’s final adoption of the budget… As previously posted in the agenda for this meeting there were some areas that I felt needed direction given to the Town Manager and staff …Some revisited for clarification as well as changes to be made in the CIP priorities… But, after mulling it over in the last 24 hours I surmise that the lack of doing so was a combination of  burnout after being faced with so, so much over such a short period of time and the Commissioners knowing that with this new Administration and their fellow Commissioners any needed changes that might arise in the new fiscal year will be addressed as well as  “safety nets” of accountability for funds (such as the advertising funding for the Chamber) are in place …and that it will all be transparent to not only the Commissioners but to the taxpayers …So for this year…I’ll give them a pass on keeping mum….until or unless it comes back to bite them…which I am betting will not be in the cards as it would have been in the past…

The Vice Mayor made the motion and Comm. Vincent made the second to approve…it passed 5-0…

Apparently Comm. Vincent either fell asleep at the wheel or was caught off guard as well with no discussion taking place and wanted to make his comments … The Mayor told him to go ahead…

Comm. Vincent -” I apologize for the misunderstanding . I do want to comment if I may on script here. It’s been crunch time for the last few months putting the budget together but it’s been worth all the time and effort not having to raise our millage. Everyone should be seeing a reduction in their taxes at least in the Lauderdale By The Sea portion. Even though property values have decreased at least our taxes are decreasing as well even though we’re working with shortfalls in revenues while other municipalities are increasing theirs to make up the difference. We can thank the hard work of this Commission especially the staff to make sure that our tax dollars are being spent wisely.” …He went on to thank “Connie Hoffmann, Bud Bentley, Doug Haag and all department heads for responding to the Commission’s requests to do everything possible to maintain our 3.99 millage. The cutting costs and spending without having to reduce the level of service in our town. It’s not been easy and hats off to all of you for a job well done. Thank you.”..

With that the Mayor thanked him and Vice Mayor Dodd made the motion to adjourn…

The meeting is archived on the Town website as well the budget backups throughout the process … http://www.lauderdalebythesea-fl.gov/

more to come….

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