Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Some questions need to be answered.

Before moving on to correct the current situation questions need to be answered.
What is Staff presenting to the Commission as alternatives to the Broward County Sheriff's cost increases?  I would add that when things are done on an "end justifies the means" basis, it is often the result that serious public policy mistakes are made.  City Charter 7.09 is clear that there should have been a Referendum if the Sheriff fire section was to use the City owned fire stations.  Even without Section 7.09, on an issue of that importance, the public should be given the vote.  But, especially with former Mayor Noland's strong desire to do everything for the fire department and her fire department husband, Howard, the public was ignored as the right of the public to determine those crucial issues affecting the public's lives was ignored.  The Commission did not allow a vote, and for that the members of that Commission are justifiably to be blamed.  I believe the public did not want the fire department to go to the Sheriff, and I believe that that that Commission knew it, but felt that the public's wishes should be ignored. 
The problem is that now, when there are issues concerning the fire department being with the Sheriff, there is still a large opinion that it never should have been done in the first place.  I have not reviewed the Contract, but in light of the fact that the Commission and Staff knew that the legitimacy of the manner in which the fire department went to the Sheriff, that the contract is structured to make it difficult for the City to take the fire department back, if that is the wish of the Commission.

What structural changes are being made to the personnel employment chart for the City, especially at the upper Staff levels?  This is vital because a top-heavy Staff symbolically and practically reflects that there is bloated government that is not serious about government efficiency and treating the taxpayer funds with fiscal responsibility.

The City Manager is the Chief Administrator for the City.  Did Staff provide written memoranda to the Commission and to the City accurately stating what would cause the fund balance decline and any increases related to the contract related with the Broward Sheriff's Office?  While the decision to have a budget that would cause a fund balance decline and to contract with the Broward Sheriff's Department are policy decisions for the Commission, the City Manager should (although often they do not) state in writing the consequences of the actions a Commission is determining."

A serious answer needs to be given to the question: "How did what happen occur?"  Burgess was the City Manager during the move of the fire department and was acting City Manager or City Manager during a significant portion of a drop in the reserves.   An analysis is needed as to what information Staff gave the Commission and was available to the citizens.  This does raise the issue of Burgess' weakness in finances.  If the answers are what I suspect they may be, Burgess needs to significantly change his behavior so that these things or types of things never happen again.  Burgess' responsibility for this serious situation should not be minimized because if it is minimized it will not be corrected.  Burgess is paid a lot of money (someone should really even at this date do a valuation as to his compensation package on both an annual basis and also the value of his "golden parachute" when he is no longer City Manager.  This is a one sided contract in Burgess' favor and not in favor of the citizens of Deerfield Beach), and his performance on these two significant matters seems to have been very inadequate.   

As concerns staff, I would look to the issue of top-heavy staffing and the pay levels of those staff.  I would also be careful not to place too much weight on what other municipalities are paying since the overpay problem is endemic of government.  I go back to my letter to the Commission of September 2010 concerning Burgess' pay jump when he went in-house to being a City Manager.  I wonder who on Staff would do a hard analysis of the top heavy nature of upper Administrative level personnel and the overpayment salaries/compensation packages.

The potential errors by Burgess in the reduction of the fund balance and an accurate assessment of information provided the Commission concerning the fire department going to the Sheriff's Department are very, very significant errors.  It was and is his job to provide accurate information.  Whether the then constituted Commission would have voted differently is difficult to say -- I believe that no matter what, Peggy Noland would have voted in favor of the fire department going to the Sheriff's Department because it benefitted her husband.


The fund balance should never have been allowed to dip so low and should be beefed up ASAP.  There should be more revenue now that property values are inching up if that is not enough a raise in the millage rate might be the way to go, perhaps with a provision that it will only be until we get a fatter fund balance, a raise will anger some but may be the only  way to go. 

I think Hugh Dunkley our Director of Finance is very aware of what needs to be done and the commission should listen to him more and worry about reelection less.  There are lots of things the city needs that cost money but should be put on the back burner until the balance is large enough so we have enough for hurricane damage etc.

It is hard to justify taxpayers paying more if the city pay scale is out of whack, I don’t know if it is, but needs to be addressed every year, when I was president of our teacher’s union we adjusted the pay scale every year, many years the teachers at the top of the guide got very little increase, if anything.

 I also don’t know if we are top heavy in top administration, but a serious look at that should be done.  Perhaps we should look at saving money by outsourcing some departments, landscaping for example, would it be cheaper?  We should take a serious look at that department and others.  Most likely it would save money as we would save pension and medical costs and perhaps get better service as the company would know they would be let go if they didn’t perform up to snuff.  We are not an employment agency for city residents, but I suppose the city could make a provision that our workers would be hired by the outside agency. 

I believe that taking the fire department back would be next to impossible, but if an actuary could prove that it would save money it should be looked at.  I don’t think so but who knows.  I have many questions about that.  What would happen to the extra fire station out west? Would the city have to be stuck with the same pension provisions?  As a teacher I did other jobs for the district for which I was paid a stipend, and coaches etc. make extra money, but NONE of that extra money went toward our pension basis, and I do not believe overtime etc. should be included. 

The City Attorney's opinion was that we didn’t need a referendum, but I would have liked to see one, I am not sure the residents would have voted no, as they did in the past, as this change was presented with the rosy outlook of saving millions and millions each year, how is that working out?  But the voters should be heard on items such as these.

1 comment:

  1. The City manager follows the lead of the commission and mayor, especially the mayor!