Monday, March 21, 2011

Click here for live link to City Commission meeting (3/21) re Mid-Year Budget Cuts - after 5 p.m.

Stanton said that the memo took 80 hours of staff time to complete.  The budget was balanced originally and it is the first time the city hasn't drawn on its reserves in a long time.  She said that after 2007 the bottom fell out and the city drew on its reserves (Chart 1 of back-up)  She says if they could have gotten the unions to agree in FY 2009-2010 to the City's financial situation, we wouldn't be talking about layoffs now.  The five year plan shows increased projected deficits (Table 3) over the five years - going up to near $10 million in year five (FY 2014-15)  All these cuts are coming from Public Works - she asked Joe Kroll to reduce his budget by 20% and 40% as part of this exercise.  The privatization of grass cutting and street maintenance, she says, will be targeted to smaller Lake Worth firms.  Not backing away from the lifeguard recommendation, but says that they can discuss it.  Workforce reductions create about $1.3 million in extra funds.

Click here for back-up memo.

Stanton still.  Now talking about the timeline, talk about contracting for services by the end of this week.  Union does have the right to make their own proposal.  Award contracts on May 3, and layoffs would be effective May 14.  There is also a voluntary separation program, modeled after one in West Palm Beach.  Referring to longevity "mix" of the city's workforce (page 14 of memo.)

Getting into police issue now with PBSO - study due out in two weeks.  She doesn't know if the service reduction and lower fee will be acceptable.  She expects a proposal to reduce their cost by $1 million.  If not, we would be in a deeper hole.  Now talking about special fire assessment that would be outside of the 10 mil cap.  Talking about Mulvehill being rebuffed by the county on the request to re-look at the MSTU part of the millage and the prospect of a special assessment for fire.  Many properties are valued under $50,000 and pay a minimal tax - but still benefit from general fund services.  There are some rental properties with full homestead exemptions.  Even if the assessment is for the supplemental payment of $1.4 million, that would help.  There are also different level of services - response times and staff levels.

Cost of electric - $10 million goes to general fund from utility.  This calls for a reduction of $500,000 in that contribution next year and lower rates.  She is asking what we have to do to grow our economy and attract business, but the cost of electric is a barrier to do that.

All of the changes amount to about $4 million in savings - assuming everything goes forward as in proposal.  Still need a reduction of $800,000 FY 2012 - and assumes a reduction of property value by 15% - if it's more, then the deficit will be larger.  This is "within striking distance."  Chart 3 in the memo shows the result of these changes spread out over five years.  Talking about "state of financial urgency" and how that is being challenged.  If the mediator agrees with the unions, $3.5 million of refunds to the workforce.  The city would have to go to court to challenge that decision if it goes against the city.  "Not a nose dive into the black hole..."

Mayor says that this is a proposal.  The Commission has to debate and the Commission is not laying off anyone tonight.  Stable, functional cities start the process at this point - putting up trial balloons here - can raise taxes or fees - discuss how we go forward tonight - with the timeline.  Aggressive.

Mullvehill asks about the DROP plan - how many employees are on it?  Stanton says that you cannot tell people legally that they are not employed if they are on the DROP plan.  If they challenge this, there would be a lot of litigation.  Mulvehill also mentions the benefit plan and Stanton refers to it as a ponzi scheme - people are paying into something that they wouldn't get a benefit from.

Golden reiterates that is was a "real team effort" of the staff.  She asks about the $1.2 million of funds that have to go back to FEMA and if that needs to be added to this?  In dispute is $23.5 million, and the city is down to $1.2 million.  The answer is "YES" - it would add to the deficit.  FMPA exiting is based upon usage and an old housing stock - Golden is amazed that more people don't participate in the conservation program.  Loves the idea of lowering electric bills.  Stanton says there is going to be a presentation by the electric consultant in April that will answer some of those questions.  She says that the franchise fees shouldn't count as transfers to the general fund.

McVoy - this is a difficult time trying to figure this out.  Looks at charts and tries to figure them out.  Revenue does not equal expenses.  An average 1,000 megawatt monthly bill, the bill would be $134 - we're not that far out of line - we are about middle of the pack (so far he is not mentioning commercial rates which are the highest in the state) - not comfortable with the transfer from the electric to the general fund.  He talked to someone in Miami Lakes about that.  Getting the "thinking caps on."

Maxwell - talking about laying off some valuable employees and thanks the manager for considering reducing electric rates.  Disappointed in some ways and didn't vote for the budget.  And the budget was approved with the assumption that we wouldn't be going through layoffs this year - now we are talking about significant layoffs.  How are we going to go through this tonight - how is the discussion going to be structured?  Mayor refers to bullet points - they are going to work by area - he references five.

Mayor - probably the biggest discussion tonight is workforce reduction and what that will mean.

Maxwell - a lot of assumptions that we are dealing with - if these don't come true - not been successful with our unions to date - might be back in a worse situation later.  Should just be dealing with what IS true, not what we think is true.  This is "dynamite."  Five year projection does nothing to increase its revenues and taxable value.  Concerned about what we are doing here tonight, should be done in a very methodical manner.

Mayor is speaking specifically - lifeguards at the beach, a public safety concern.  Add a quarter to the meters out there, if that makes up the difference?  We need to look at that - that is the easiest one for me.  Stanton - says $50 and $75,000 additional revenue - which is about half what is being proposed.

Maxwell - lifeguards - what message are we sending to the public with our focus on the beach and then we cut lifeguards at that beach.  Are we really going to get there by going down this road?  Should we have a different discussion about how we generate revenues?  What cuts have been made at the administrative level?  Commissioner salaries - zero dollars?  Need to share in the pain.  Hasn't been received well by others.

Mayor pushes the rate increase for parking at the beach.  Mulvehill is talking about unguarded beaches at the County - Peanut Island is seasonal - guarded on weekends only.  Mulvehill likes one half of the beach guarded - the other half would be "swim at your own risk."  Thinks that a quarter increase is o.k. - not comfortable with just Friday, Saturday, Sunday - the north half would be guarded 7 days a week.

McVoy supports the increase if the public is informed that the increase is for lifeguard coverage.  Likes 7 day coverage - look at legal obligations so that we know what the implications are.  Liability issues, etc.

Mulvehill looked at guarded versus unguarded beaches in the county - keeps referring to Peanut Island (not a good comparison, imho)

Maxwell asks if that is enough of an increase.  Asks the city attorney for input.  Sorry didn't hear the answer.

Golden wants to know which is the "best" side for the lifeguards to be - north or south.  She thinks we call don't want cuts, but the time has come to make those changes.  We need to ticket and enforce parking too to increase revenue.  She doesn't know if a quarter increase is enough.

Mayor says to offset the lifeguard cuts with additional revenue from parking.

Mulvehill thinks that everyone would know that one side is not guarded.  (tourists??)

Stanton says that with the redevelopment of the beach, an unguarded section of the beach, that might deter people from coming.  There is risk management to all these cuts - from streets, sidewalks - everyone can sue.

Maxwell says that we can increase the CAM charges at the new building as that would be more predictable rather than parking.  Mayor also asked for pool subsidy form tenants, but he's concerned about the burden on the businesses.

Maxwell - number of meetings on code enforcement with the manager.  Outstanding money in terms of code fines?  Can this Commission look different at recovering some of the money in code fines?  Compliance would better the neighborhoods and if not we get money.  Stanton asks when we would be receiving those monies - she doesn't know - and there would be litigation.

Maxwell - Part of the reason that we are here tonight is that there are properties that are out of compliance with code.

Mayor - can't snap our fingers and get the money - its been owed for years.

Maxwell - can we get more money out of our rental properties, standardized rental signs, we don't charge what other communities charge.


BACK at 6:34 p.m.

Talking about the library - Golden takes a swipe at the Lucerne saying that because its there, the library can't expand.  Says that we need a volunteer coordinator to make it work.

Mayor says volunteers do care - they are valued at $50 an hour.  It's a resource we haven't tapped into heavily, but we are going to have to.

Maxwell - total hours of operation of the library?  Still need to open and close the building - answer is 40 hours a week.

Mayor - what does the Commission want to do - McVoy wants more employees there, Mulvehill  says we need a volunteer coordinator.  Stanton says the hole dance we are going to have to do here, is hire part time staff - no one wants to do this.  Golden thinks that one of the part time people could coordinate volunteers.  Mayor thinks that function is better handled through HR.

McVoy wants to add 2 full time and keep the two added part time.  Mulvehill thinks its all arbitrary right now cause we don't know what we are looking at.  When could we look at what the actual impact is?  Stanton, we could come back in a week with different mixing of staff.  She thinks they are going in the wrong direction.  Mayor - city manager's proposal - but done with the library and public works director.

Golden asks McVoy - where is that money going to come from?  Free library, they charge fees if late.  Library Director talks about the Trust Fund - she is saying that now is the time to use those funds to staff the library appropriately - applause.

Maxwell - library staff to come back and make a recommendation on that proposal.

Mulvehill - not in favor of using the trust fund money for personnel.  She likes 1 full time and 4 part time - that's with 30 and she wants to see 40 hours.  The Mayor would want to see two more part time.

McVoy - wants two full time - would like to see three.

Maxwell asked if the library director had input - she said very briefly.  He would like more of her input and she said that she needs more time to consider this.

Mayor wants to lump two sections together and wants to open up public comment soon.  Outsourcing services - streets and grounds maintenance.

Maxwell asks how much will we be saving - Stanton says that we will know when we get the bids back - the numbers are "net" of the estimate.

Mulvehill asks what other services will be eliminated.  Stanton says we contract out a lot now.  It would be a lower level of service - may not be ex-tenable for a long period of time.  The custodians don't go into the beach bathrooms to clean - it's the LIFEGUARDS!  Stanton said that they do it when they can.(that are about to be halved)  Stanton - it won't be done as well as our own people - we are going to notice, we just don't have the money to pay.

Maxwell - level of service from bidding companies should be same level of service.  Stanton - we are looking at a reduced level of service everywhere.

Ed Fry - OMB - explaining assumptions on costs of private services.Stanton - trying to get good bids.  $38,000 for street maintenance and one person is the department - Maxwell.  Supplies and materials would be supplied by contractor.

McVoy - asks Fry about COBRA, unemployment insurance - are these additional costs - Fry says that they are accounted for.  Thinks that we to be aware that these are big reductions will be going in the wrong direction in terms of attracting people to live in LW - brilliant!

Mayor wants to know what the impact of a skeleton crew is and what it really means.  Stanton says that the private sector isn't going to do a good a job.  Mayor says if we are really going through this we need to know if it is well worth it - to get rid of our own employees.  Stanton says that the current levels of service are not sustainable.


McVoy thinks residents can be responsible for removal of dead animals.

Mayor - introduces recreation issue and says that this might be a special assessment.

Golden thinks we need to get the word out to  people that we need to step up and sweep the streets or what have you.

Talking about the City Clerk department now.

Now Human Resources.

Mulvehill asking about grant writer being eliminated as someone who actually brings money into the city.  They tried to do on an incentive basis, but no one was interested in that type of position.  McVoy agreed.  So does Maxwell.  The grants administrator's time has been taken up with the FEMA investigation.

Stanton is justifying OMB by saying that the purchasing department and assistant City Manager have been deleted as positions.  She says its a net reduction of cost.  Maxwell says that $500,000 is in the chart.  Ed Fry - Table 11 there is an error in OMB for 2011 - he's referring to Table 8 $586,000 is the real amount - which included the grant writer.  Maxwell  points out that it is still $100,000 higher than what Stanton is saying.  Now it's a $40,000 increase.  Maxwell is talking about the number of mistakes throughout the whole budget process, that the tables don't match and we have all these professionals putting this stuff together.  Stanton says they re-did the chart and there are some mistakes - Maxwell says its another thing when the numbers are off and we are talking about laying off people.  Stanton says we need to get to audited actuals - (when is that going to happen??)  Maxwell says that the tables should present one period of time.  Stanton says the number is what it is in the budget - the budget rules.  He says that there are huge discrepancies in Table 1.

Please continue commenting to fill in as needed.  Going to take an extended break.