The reason I share this with you is that while Punta Gorda is only one of thousands of Florida municipalities, it appears to be professionally run and great effort is taken to inform residents about what is going on with their municipal government on a continual basis. Remember, these are weekly communications. Compare this to our Mayor's sparse and sporadic communication with the media, nearly no regular communication and information flow from City Commissioners or staff or the measly/expensive quarterly newsletter sent out by Lake Worth.
This is an example of what can be done - let's stop saying it can't be done and start doing it.
The e-mail message appears below. Click the title for a link to the attachment that accompanied the e-mail.
Last week I mentioned that we were beginning the budget process and you will read about first steps in the attached weekly report. In order to help you understand better I offer the following information.
The General Fund pays for most services provided by the city of PG. It does not include water, sewer or garbage; these services are enterprises [separate businesses] which are billed based on usage.
2009 General Fund Revenue is - $19,047,000.
-of which only $7,412,483. [39%] comes from real estate taxes; the balance from a variety of franchise and licensing fees, state and federal grants etc.
The costs of Fire and Police services alone are $8,153,285. this exceeds the total real estate taxes collected.
City government can control the amount of real estate taxes collected by adjusting the mileage rate; we however have no control over the other 61% which has been decreasing at an accelerated rate.
Through a variety of methods including staff reductions we have successfully reduced spending for the past two years. Some of those reductions will come back to haunt us, like the suspension of our road resurfacing program.
In spite of the cost reductions we still had a significant gap. In order to balance the budget we decided to collect the same amount of real estate tax revenue that we did the year prior. However with the reductions in property value the only way that could be accomplished was by increasing the mileage rate. It was the first time in many years, and because of the save our homes [Homestead Act] it had an interesting effect. Most non homesteaded residents received a tax reduction while homesteaded folks saw an increase.
All this information may beg the question of why we are building a parking garage or adding a fountain at Laishley Park while in the midst of this downturn. The funding for those projects comes exclusively from the CRA district [downtown] taxes and can only be used for downtown improvements. The CRA was established in 1989 and will terminate in 2019.
I will keep you informed as we move through the process and promise that we will do the best we can to control spending while maintaining the Punta Gorda standards that attracted most of us here.