Wednesday, May 10, 2017

“Oh man. Wow. I am so happy now I lost my race for re-election last March.”

If a former 3-term City commissioner (first elected in 2010) watched the Commission Work Session last night you can just imagine him saying the words in the title. He may have been stung initially losing to a political newcomer last March, but now it must look more like a gift from the Heavens.

Last night was the “Budget and Comprehensive Plan Work Session”. Later on will get to the “Comp Plan” portion of this meeting which was very well presented and more about the Water Fund as well.

[Please remember: this is very early in the budget process. There will be much more information and news to come later from the City. Be very skeptical of what you read on social media and in press reports as well, e.g., about rate increases, deficits, and City revenues. Part of the budget process is exploring IDEAS. Use this link to watch the City’s YouTube video of the meeting last night; use this link to download the agenda.]

Out of the eight City funds, three were addressed: Water, Electric, and Beach. The others will be looked at later in the budget process. My citizen reporter at the scene last night took notes and sent them to me. Yours Truly is out of town for a few more days.

It’s very possible the City will have a municipal pool in the future, but fixing the old pool — or constructing a new one at the Beach — looks to be highly in doubt. It all depends on how much the public is willing to continue and subsidize a Casino/pool complex that was promised to add money to our City coffers, not the other way around.

Here’s the bombshell news: the Commission may consider forgiving the balance of the $6M loan to construct the ‘renovated’ Casino, a loan from the City to the City from the Water Fund, because the Beach isn’t making enough money to pay the loan back. We all knew that. Nothing new. But in order to do that, using preliminary calculations, they would have to raise water rates to 4% instead of the 2¾–3% from the modeling to make up the difference. The image of pitchforks comes to mind.

The former commissioners and former city manager who created this mess are gone now, but in many ways, they’re still with us.
A former commissioner claimed he wasn’t part of the Casino/pool debacle back in 2010. “It wasn’t me. I was doing a soil survey in Mongolia and my phone was turned off.” Recognize anyone else?

Below are more of the notes sent to me, in list form, in no particular order:
  • The budget modeling is being done by Stantec, which acquired Burton & Associates (who many of you are familiar with) back in 2016.
  • Stantec will “telescope” each fund over 5–10 years and look at minimum reserve levels (next funds up for review: Regional & Local Sewer, Sanitation, Stormwater, and the General Fund).
  • Ten or fifteen minutes into the Beach Fund review The Obtuse Blogger (TOB) left the meeting “looking nauseous”.

Electric Fund

  • Lake Worth Electric Utility will reach 1,000 kilowatt residential parity with FPL in FY2018! The new Solar Field is “a wash” per City Manager Michael Bornstein and doesn’t affect rates.
  • New electric meters have made a big difference in “electron capture” per Walt Gill, the acting director.
  • Vice Mayor Scott Maxwell about electric rates: “This is a big day for Lake Worth” and a “big win for everybody”. Mayor Pam Triolo: “Removes the disincentives for moving to Lake Worth”. Commissioner Andy Amoroso: “More people want to be here”. Commissioner Herman Robinson: “Lake Worth is competitive”.

Beach Fund

  • A Commission Work Session to address problems at the Beach is scheduled for May 23rd.
  • The loan payback to ‘renovate’ the Casino is $550,000/yr plus interest. Biggest revenue source is parking ($1.6M): not part of the original ‘solid’ business plan we were promised back in 2010. Without substantial changes the Beach Fund will be fully depleted by 2019.
  • One of the electeds said, “Stop the bleeding”. Commissioner Hardy: “Can’t keep kicking the can down the road”.
  • Also not part of the ‘solid’ business plan we were promised: City is relying heavily on parking citations at the Beach, $250,000/yr.
  • Renegotiating leases and leasing the 2nd floor will not help in any meaningful way.
  • From the City Attorney: a “settlement agreement” with the construction company and architect within the next few months.
  • Leases are bringing in $300,000. “We cannot continue to keep losing money”, said Asst. City Manager Juan Ruiz, and “the [Beach] fund is still hurting with the pool closed.”

And in conclusion. . . “stay tuned” as they say. 

“Can’t keep kicking the can down the road”.