Thursday, September 26, 2013

Millage Rate Up 14%, Everyone Gets a Raise, Services Cut

Last night, the commission settled on raising our taxes 14.9% while approving a budget that only cut currently unfilled positions, that eliminated the PAL program as is the annual custom, gives every village employee a raise except for the interim village manager, has no money budgeted for lawsuits, and is guaranteed to be blown within three months of adoption.   The vote was 4 to 1.  

Couple of highlights from the budget:

  • To make the budget, the village once again decided to pretend that nobody sues us over our weird coding, inconsistent law enforcement and poor personnel management.  So thinking positively, they approved a budget that contains no money to defend or settle lawsuits against the village.  Since in the real world, meanies sometimes sue us, the first lawsuit will knock this over.
  • Drastic cuts were made to positions that don't exist currently so they are definitely still not there.
  • The interim village manager cut his own salary by $600 per month and cut his benefits pretty much out.  That would seem  noble but if we decide for a permanent village manager who is not him, we have to restore this, about another $40,000.  So, win?
  • Cost of living raises are handed out all around.
  • Sadly, for the fourth year in a row, the police will not be presenting the PAL program.  It could have been funded out of the recreation services reserve but you know, the chief.

The meeting was called to order at 6PM, more or less.  The budget was intensely questioned by Commissioner Chervony and Mayor Kreps, as well as many members of the public.   The manager very clearly laid out the dire consequences of our previous years' decision to spend $1.2 million in reserves down to nothing - we're broke.   

At 7:40 PM - Vice Mayor Eddie Lim spoke about how this is really a moderate increase, which it is for him since his 2012 tax bill for NBV was $148.33 and now will be ~$170.  He did note that it makes him sad that seasonal plantings on the causeway are going away and wondered if the reserve number was wrong.   He was assured it was not and lapsed back into silence at 7:44 PM.  

At 7:44 PM - Commissioner Duvall noted that legal had not cut their budgeted amounts.   Foreshadowing.  After a 1 minute discussion, she yielded the floor.  

At 7:45 PM, Commissioner Gonzalez complimented the budget, said something about $30k in fireworks and fulfilled his duties as a member of the dais.  

At 7:46 PM, Mayor Kreps asked about the cuts to dispatch, explained that the sad urchins of North Bay Village look forward to the village Cristmahanawanzika holiday party all year long, said tough toenails on the PAL, and said something about flowers.  

In a sweeping rhetorical flourish she read the Village Mission statement and goals.  Did you know it's a village goal to be a "Beautiful, Quaint Village on the Bay"?   I didn't.   I wonder how we'll know when we've reached that goal?  

So what took up most of the nearly 3 hour meeting?   

About an hour was presentations on the budget from the manager and staff.   The rest were questions and objections from residents.   

These can easily be summarized into the following:

  • Why are you raising taxes?  Answer:  For the last 2 years we spent the reserve without regard to consequences.  
  • Do you have a plan to keep costs under control for next year?  Answer:  No but the commissioners have high hopes.  
  • Why has there been no accountability from the police chief on the $1 million he mispent from the police budget?  Answer:  What?  You want to cut response time?
  • Do you have any explanation for why the huge misspend in the last 2 years?  Answer:  That's not positive.  
I have left out the one commissioner who voted against the budget and tax increase, Richard Chervony.   Of the five, he spoke the longest, questioning the wisdom of spending money on equipment that can't be used, concerns about the sponsoring a scholarship pageant when we can't pay our own bills, promotions in the PD and a host of other specifics.  As is the custom on the dais, he was ignored.   He's not shiny and positive.   

So after an exhausting nearly 3 hours of not listening to residents, ignoring requests for measurement and proof,  congratulating themselves on a not job well done, they passed the budget that they all know will not make it through the quarter and decided to bag the regular commission meeting which was only in place to engage residents who want to help the city by serving on boards.  

Really, they decided to table everything until October, except for one thing - a dramatic whirlwind of North Bay Village crazy.  I'll cover that in the next  post.  

Kevin Vericker
September 26, 2013

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