Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Hiding In Our Sewers?

In September, taxes went up 14.9% for the operating millage.  Although the discussions around that budget were desultory and unfocused, at least there was a discussion. The second, higher tax hike of 16% to our utility bills passed with no discussion at all.   

A little math.  

If your tax bill last year for North Bay Village Operating was $675, your tax bill for 2013 will be $775, a rise of $100.    

However, if your utility bills for water and sewer run around $100, you will now be paying a cool $191 more per year, nearly double the debated tax rise.  

This is the highest and most regressive of tax hikes.  Water usage is approximately the same for most of us; the price does not vary based on Save Our Homes, there are no discounts for the elderly and no appeal to be made.  It's a consumption tax that does not reflect anything about your home's value.  

This new tax hike was never debated, explained or discussed by the commission or the village manager.  It was simply imposed. 

So I got to wondering why.   Why hide it?   To me the answer is pretty clear.   

A small amount of this is due to the rise in wastewater from Miami-Dade county.   But the bulk is now used to fund some of the operating departments of the village.   The Village Manager, Finance, Clerical and Administration, all took phantom cuts in the general budget, that is eliminated positions that were never filled anyway, while shifting their funding source to the General Utility fund.   On average, a little over 50% including the raises all around, the benefits, and other costs are now being charged to Utilities, safely hidden from public view.    

Except for one department.  Legal is currently unpopular, taking the blame for a series of bad police management decisions, and in spite of the fact that 62% of legal's time is spent on matters related to utilities, less than 10% of their budget is allocated to utilities.  Maybe they do charge too much (I don't think so - I've checked and compared to other cities) but unlike the other departments, they don't hide.  

It's probably time to look under those manhole covers and see what's hiding in our sewers.  It ain't pretty.  

Kevin Vericker
October 22, 2013

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