Posted Under: Important Issues for Fort Lauderdale
A Storm is Brewing…
What is our Mayor doing to prepare?
· Our City’s budget has grown on average over 10% a year from 2005 until last year (from $345M to over $600M), due to property values increasing.
· We see now that the spending craze the City has been on for years must now come to an end as property values are dropping and foreclosures are increasing.
· Our Mayor appears to show little interest in “getting his hands dirty” by starting to make some tough decisions now to prepare for this fall.
The City’s budget this fall will hit you, the Fort Lauderdale taxpayer hard, unless something is done soon by our Mayor and Commission. As you recall, last October our new City Budget had to be approved. Rather than spend his first six months in office looking for ways to cut that budget and reduce costs, Mayor Jack Seiler chose to do nothing.
He accepted the proposed $600+ million dollar budget from spend-aholic City Manager George Gretsas without making any cost reductions. He approved the 5% to 10% city employee pay raises, the longevity bonuses, fat manager salaries, bloated bureaucracies and the continuation of wasteful spending programs. The “Zero-based budgeting” concept he promoted while he was campaigning for Mayor was flushed down the toilet the day he was sworn in. His only instructions last year to Gretsas on the budget were “don’t lay off any City employees”.
Since then, we’ve had to use over $20M in reserves to balance the fat budget he approved. And the City is still continuing to spend your tax dollars like a “drunken sailor”.
Our Mayor and Commission will be hit with a double whammy this fall and they seem to be oblivious to the coming disaster. Revenues will be much less and we will most likely have a transitional City Manager without knowledge or experience on where we can make appropriate budget cuts. He or she will most likely be operating “in the blind”, trying to figure out how to run the City with much less revenue. Take note:
1. Currently, four out of every ten homes in Broward County with a mortgage are “under water”. (Meaning the house is worth less than the value of the mortgage).
2. Broward County has the highest percentage of foreclosures in the State of Florida.
3. One out of every 105 homes is in some stage of foreclosure.
4. Foreclosures are up 74% from a year ago.
5. Continuing job losses and a coming avalanche of new adjustable mortgage rate increases this year mean even more foreclosures will be hitting us.
6. We are continuing to see more houses and condominium units abandoned, with short sales and auction signs proliferating.
7. Experts are saying the decline in home values will continue until 2015.
8. The Broward County Property Appraiser is estimating 15% to 20% lower property values for this fall.
This means tens of millions of dollars in lower property tax revenues for our City. Broward County Government (which also gets a large portion of their revenues from your property tax bill), is already working on ways to close the coming huge shortfall. What is the City of Fort Lauderdale doing? So far, nothing!
And with City Manager George Gretsas’s hoped-for departure in July, this means that there will be little-to-no preparation for a new City Budget that will be more reflective of this fall’s economic realities. (Thankfully, Gretsas shouldn’t be around constructing a new wasteful budget for this fall; he’s looking for a new City Manager’s job with some other unfortunate municipality.)
So who is going to be guiding Fort Lauderdale’s economic “Ship of State” through this coming storm? Rather than be $20-30 million in the hole as we were last year (and using our reserves to close the gap), this year we could be $50-70 million in the hole with no adequate reserves to cover the shortfall. Doesn’t our Mayor and our Commission realize that it will take months to discuss and adequately prepare for fair and well-planned budget and staff reductions? It will also take months to find a new City Manager with the right skill set to re-establish our City on stable financial ground. Our Mayor does not yet seem to understand the importance of addressing either of these issues. Where is his leadership?
If you are concerned about Mayor Seiler’s “all is well” approach, send him an email. Here is the Mayor’s email address as well as our Commissioners:
Commisioner Bruce G. Roberts: firstname.lastname@example.org
Commisioner Charlotte E. Rodstrom: email@example.com
Commisioner Bobby B. DuBose: firstname.lastname@example.org
Commisioner Romney Rogers: email@example.com
And here is a proposed email you can send them!
Mayor Seiler: Please explain the specific steps you have accomplished to-date to reduce the City’s spending and to insure that our fees and our property tax rates will not increase this fall. You should be aware by now that the City will have millions less in revenue. What Departments will you reduce? How many city employees will you lay off? Why are we still handing out pay raises and longevity bonuses to City Employees when the average worker is lucky to have a job?
And thank you, to you the resident of Fort Lauderdale!