Thursday, July 29, 2010

The Budget Workshop That Wasn't

This should have been a long thoughtful post on the implications of the proposed budgets as presented last night. It can't be. We didn't learn much.

The presentation last night was not worthy of the subject at hand.

The interim city manager was apparently ill and the presentation was handed off to the new police chief, Robert Daniels, on short notice. Chief Daniels acquitted himself admirably. He did not attempt to speak to what he did not know, spoke clearly and precisely to what he did know which was the important part about the impact of the cuts on the police, and forbore the obnoxious and ignorant stream of consciousness speechifying put forth by one of our long term residents.

From the commission, neither the former vice mayor, Rey Trujillo, nor the current vice mayor, George Kane, were there to listen to the concerns of the assembled citizens. Now that was probably to the good, since Rey Trujillo likely would have introduced more positions to double pay as the North Bay Village Trujillo Tax continues to consume our dwindling resources and George Kane, like the cast of the Jersey Shore, prefers to be paid for his public appearances. But still the absence was notable.

From the police side, the news does not look good. If the current tax rate is maintained, there will be a layoff of 5 police officers and dispatch will be eliminated. With a .5 increase in the millage, that number should drop to 3 police officers with dispatch maintained.

If the tax rate millage is increased from 4.2772 to 4.7772, then the layoffs are less severe. But the effect of the tax increase will be felt exclusively by the longer term homeowners. Cliff Friedland (aka Mr. Penelope Friedland) summed it up well when he commented that a millage rate increase is "against the spirit of the Homestead law."

Now beyond the fact that two of the architects of the cash crisis, Trujillo and Kane, did not show up, there were some critical pieces of information missing.

  • There was no revenue sheet included. That is there was no clear statement that showed the anticipated revenue and the assumptions for next year. You can't present a budget without that. Every household knows that you need to see the income before you can decide the spending.

  • The budget is not expressed in services. If the police are cut, what can we expect for response time? What is the response time now? How does response time differ between local dispatch and county 911? We need to know this and I hope this information is available to us for the next workshop.

    William Bratton, former police chief of NYC and widely credited with the crime reductions of the 1990's there, famously said that every manager at McDonald's knows what the workload will look like for each shift and can immediately show the statistics supporting the staffing decisions. Our police department can do the same.

  • There was nothing quantifiable about the non police layoffs and personnel changes. We don't know what services will be cut in operations and planning. There was a discussion of outsourcing the sanitation. What if we outsourced finance and code instead? These are scenarios that have to be presented.

The citizens who showed up last night were ill served. The crisis resolution should not depend on one man; every experienced city professional should be able to discuss these questions; Chief Daniels two weeks into his new position did better than we could have reasonably expected but the people around him, who brought him in, left him hanging out there.

The next budget discussions are:

August 12 at 4:30 PM in City Hall with the Citizens Budget and Oversight Commission. It's a public meeting.

Probably August 28 for the second budget discussion which I hope will be done seriously.

Then the two commission meetings in September to agree the final budget.

Kevin Vericker
July 29, 2010

No comments:

Post a Comment

Comments are available to all but you must have a name and a contact. If your comment contains either foul language or slanders against individuals, it will be deleted.