TAB Plan, Projects, and Timeline

TAB was formed to find ways to reduce county spending. Notice that we are not trying to “reduce the millage rate”, or even “reduce taxes”. The complexity of county revenue sources and the various adjustments to property tax bills such as the homestead exemption and appraisal caps make tax comparison a game of “who wins, who loses”. Millage, likewise, is more a game of trends and estimates in property appraisal. To really get a handle on the affordability of the county spending it must be compared to an objective measure of economic activity, population, inflation, or some other external yardstick. That sort of measure could then be used to see how we stack up against other Florida counties, or government entities around the country.

Palm Beach is a “rich” county. Our per capita income is high for the state and for the country. This should imply that we could spend more per capita, and have a richer infrastructure and nicer amenities, parks, and facilities than the average, but it does not mean that county spending per capita can continue to increase without negative economic consequences to both consumers and businesses.

From a high level, the county budget has parts that are contracting in line with revenue and others that appear have grown without restraint – PBSO and Fire/Rescue for example. Both are complicated by absorption of municipal areas over the survey period, and capital projects for needed service enablement. Most of the growth though, appears to be in the area of employee compensation, driven by union contracts. This is a problem shared by governments at all levels and in all parts of the country. At its core, it is a failure of leadership by elected officials and it is not fair to blame the unions or the employees for requesting and winning a compensation package that is ultimately unaffordable. Just as failures of leadership from the executives of the Detroit auto companies led to federal bailouts, bad negotiating by county (and state and local) officials are leading us towards unpleasant consequences. Public employees deserve good pay and benefits, but it must be in line with the private sector where the wealth is created and which ultimately pays the bills. This is an area for long term focus by TAB.

A look at the chart prepared by Property Appraiser Gary Nikolits indicates that PBSO is the largest component of the county budget and has been growing much faster than the parts controlled by Administrator Weisman (which is shrinking, although modestly so). About $15M in cuts have been proposed by the Sheriff, mainly by cutting 3 entire programs. These are the Eagle Academy, the Drug Farm, and the Parks Police. We will look at these in another article and consider how they fit in the scheme of things. Beyond that it is difficult to analyse the PBSO budget as it is not published with the rest of the county. TAB has submitted a records request with PBSO for the “budget package” and have been assigned a tracking number, but as of yesterday, the Records Division could not say when it would be available.

Short term, TAB wants to see the millage unchanged at 4.344 versus the proposed 4.75 maximum. This would require another $52M in cuts (which is about 8.4% of ad valorem revenue, or about 1.3% of the overall county budget of $4B). Fire/Rescue, which has its own millage rate, is proposing no change for 2011, but it does plan to spend down reserves, so we will be looking at their spending as well.

TAB Timeline

With the next County Commission meeting on the budget set for September 14, we have established a schedule that will produce some solid proposals against our short term goals by that time. The timeline includes a September 2 public meeting, tentatively to be held in the Lantana branch of the County Library system when we will roll out the proposal. Commissioners, staff, and Constitutional Officers will be invited to this meeting. To meet this objective we have divided the TAB team up into work groups to delve into the following areas:

  • Core County Mission (ie. “What business are we in?”)
  • Capital Projects and the Debt Process
  • PBSO Budget
  • Fire / Rescue
  • Government Structure

In the coming days, we will be organizing this website to display interim findings in these areas. We welcome comments and assistance. If you would like to work with us on these projects, or would like to propose additional areas of focus, please contact us at

Issues in the Orange County Mayor Race

Editor’s Note:  Matthew Falconer is the author of the book:  “Building A Better Local Government, How To Lower Taxes and Improve services At The Same Time“.

Falconer for Mayor

The social issues dividing taxpayers are not applicable on a local level. In local politics it is not left versus right, it is taxpayer versus government. Most people in Florida believe our government has become self-serving and no longer represents the best interest of the taxpayer. They are correct. Government’s primary focus is on sustaining their jobs and providing for an insatiable appetite for revenue.
Why else would government increase taxes, utilities, tolls and parking fees in a recession when all of these result in higher business failure and higher unemployment? How else can you explain why the average government worker makes twice as much as the average taxpayer? How else can you justify the salary and pension for a single public servant of $22 million?

No, that is not a typo. Using the current City of Orlando formula for “high risk” employees, a public servant starting at $50,000 a year will end up at $286,643 annual salary at the end of 25 years given the current 7.5% annual pay raise. Sorry, Mr. Taxpayer, but it gets much worse.

The public servants are able to retire at 85% of the average salary of the last three years, or $224,667 per year. And it still gets worse. This annual pension payment is indexed for inflation so it increases 3% a year. After 40 years in retirement the annual pension is $746,860 a year. After 25 years of service and 40 years in retirement our high school educated civil servant has made $21,800,000.
And we’re not done. Our public servants get paid sick leave when they are not sick. They collect this bonus which can reach seven figures. Many get health benefits until they depart this earth. My question is; does anyone really believe our local economy can afford to pay one employee $22 million for 25 years of service? Where does this money come from? How many haircuts are needed or pizzas sold to pay for this one civil servant?

Folks, if you are not a member of a government labor union you are being taken to the cleaners. I respect the work done by our public servants, but it is time to put aside our social differences and unite as taxpayers to save our economy and standard of living. We need to level the salaries and benefits between the private and public sectors and convert to a defined contribution plan before the weight of government suffocates every small business. Our government uses an inverse pension ponzi scheme that will result in ever increasing taxes and fewer services over time. The sooner we accept this fact the less damage will be done.
Please visit my web site and learn more about the reforms I have in store for local government. I will stand up to government labor unions and reform local government so it once again serves the people. If we do not change the direction our local government is headed, our economy will crumble under the weight of taxes. I estimate the pension obligation alone will cost Orange County taxpayers $12 billion a year in six decades. 

Help me save the future of Florida.

Matthew Falconer 

Related News

Local Media

Other Areas

BCC 7/20 – Hal Valeche

Hal Valeche from the Taxpayer Action Network. I’m very happy to say that we will be working closely with TAB and I believe we really are achieving critical mass.

I am disappointed that the Board seems likely to recommend collecting approximately the same amount of ad valorem revenue this year as last year, requiring a substantial rate increase once again.

Given that property values are likely to continue to decline over the short term, your action sends a signal to homesteaded taxpayers that they can expect to continue paying more every year. In addition to all the other local taxing authorities who are planning an increase this year, a massive increase in federal taxes will happen on January 1st.

A real recovery has yet to take hold here in South Florida, and we’re certainly not going to speed up its arrival by increasing the burden on our most productive citizens.

I think it’s clear that we’ve gotten to the point where the taxpayers just cannot afford the level of government we’ve been given. I think it’s become mandatory for us to step back from this current cycle of ever-increasing tax rates and seriously re-evaluate everything we do as a government, and by that I mean every program, every department – everything we do. We can’t afford the government we had five years ago, and asking taxpayers to continue to dig deeper to support it is economically self-defeating.

County Adminstrator Cancels Budget Workshop

July 22, 2010

During the BCC meeting on 7/20, Commissioners Vana and Aaronson requested a budget workshop to be held on 8/31, to include the constitutional officers (such as the Sheriff) in a discussion of cross-organization efficiency. The public was to be invited, specifically TAB.

Today, after a good-faith effort on the part of Administrator Wiseman to set up the meeting, it was announced that the workshop has been canceled. For various reasons, the constitutionals could not (or declined to) participate. Each had a different reason and/or comment:

  • Sheriff Bradshaw.. cannot attend and he indicated that he did not think it was appropriate to send a substitute“.
  • Supervisor of Elections Bucher was willing to attend but because of the proximity to the primary election, may be busy if there are recounts.
  • Tax Collector Gannon, while willing to participate, suggested that the Commissioners visit her facility first and discuss if she could not assume some of the county’s programs and do them more efficiently. She also noted: “I do not want to meet in the Chambers. If we are to look at this from a team or partnership approach frankly I don’t think the Chambers is conducive to creating that atmosphere“.
  • Clerk and Comptroller Bock said that her office is already very efficient and thought the Commissioners should visit her facility before “before setting a date to discuss “potential organizational efficiencies”“.
  • Property Appraiser Nikolits, whose budget is less than 5% of PBSO, thought there was no point to the meeting unless the Sheriff agreed to participate. He went on to say: “Aside from the Sheriff, I have not heard any complaints about the budgets of the Constitutional Offices. If his budget is the issue, perhaps the BCC should deal with the problem.

We at TAB see this reluctance to cooperate as a drawback to the current structure of county government. Regardless of whether this meeting is rescheduled, TAB is considering plans to hold its own workshop with members of the public and any county officers or staff that would like to participate in a citizen’s forum.

The text of the Administrators memo is below:

Administrator Wiseman

From: Robert Weisman
Sent: Thursday, July 22, 2010 8:55 AM
Subject: Proposed Workshop with Constitutional Officers

We have now received responses from all of the Constitutional Officers that we invited to the proposed workshop on August 31. The responses ranged from timing conflicts that would prevent attendance to suggestions that the format/location be changed to requests that the Commissioners visit offices to view operations, etc.

In light of the preceding, and after discussion with Chairman Aaronson, I am canceling the workshop. We will re-consider timing and format for a future date. Commissioners may wish to individually take up the offers that have been made for visits.

BCC 7/20 – Mike Jones

I am Mike Jones, President and CEO of the Economic Council.

Our organization has consistently advocated trimming government expenses in response to declining tax revenues. We have also engaged independent consultants that have confirmed that our County’s competitiveness could be enhanced by more genuine public-private partnerships and collaboration to share scarce resources. During these difficult economic conditions, the public and private sectors are all doing more with less and taking extraordinary steps to maximize efficiencies. It is important to avoid the temptation of looking back to place fault and blame for our current dire circumstances. Instead, we encourage the public and private sectors work collaboratively and proactively to ensure our community and all its citizens equitably share in the sacrifices as we strive for smart solutions. We discourage increasing the millage rate, fees or assessments unless and until all other options have first been thoroughly explored.

We encourage you to consider all tools at your disposal to make local government more efficient and productive. We are prepared to work with your staff, the constitutional officers, the Taxpayer Action Board and any other interested citizens to realize meaningful savings without sacrificing essential services.

BCC 7/20 – Shannon Armstrong

My name is Shannon Armstrong and I live in Lake Worth. I am the founder and President of the South Florida 912 group. I am very active with my church and in my community. I have 3 children, two in Middle School and one still in Elementary School. My children are 7th generation Floridians and we love living here in Palm Beach County. I am concerned about the spending here in Palm Beach County and the future for my children. My concerns have driven me to create the grass roots action group The South Florida 912 which has been very involved here in Palm Beach County. I am also a member of the TAB coalition.

“Quality of Service stays the same however we need to change how it is delivered.”

We are not asking to close the pools or let criminals out of Jail. We are looking at still keeping the quality of service we are used too. I just want some fresh new ways to look at its delivery. For instance, farming out, services. We can replace some city workers with contractors. The areas we can look at are maintenance, custodial, and EMT as well. Cities around the country are looking at ways to reduce cost and this has proven to be very effective. In the Wall Street Journal an article spoke about a city in San Jose, Calif that was faced with a $118 million budget deficit, “The city recently decided it could no longer afford its own janitors. So the city’s budget called for dropping its custodial staff and hiring outside contractors to clean its city hall and airport, saving about $4 million. To keep all its swimming pools open and staffed, the city is replacing some city workers with contractors.”

Cities and Counties across the country are looking at various options to help keep the quality service, people have come to expect. The key is with out reducing the quality. I believe, we can do that here. Palm Beach County has recently shown some ability to face our issues and move forward. People have been put in jail that have been fraudulent. The County has shown strength in the implementation of an Inspector General. Citizens in Palm Beach County are waking up and getting active. I am very encouraged by this and glad to be a member of TAB. We will continue with our meetings and reviewing the budget. I ask each of you.

Do you want to continue with the progress our county has been making? Do we start being at the forefront of responsible spending. Will we as citizens in this community be able to lift our heads with pride by making a difference here by making some reasonable changes, for example, contracted labor and responsible cuts in spending?

We at TAB are working at a collaborative effort. Together we intend to explore what has worked and what has not. The PBC Taxpayer Action Board is active and concerned, we are not going away.

We’re paying the TAB and we’re keeping TABs on YOU.

BCC 7/20 – Michele Kirk

I would like to speak to you for a moment today about our organization’s role in the Taxpayer Action Board, or TAB Coalition.

One thing that I know about the people, professionals, and business owners of this County is that they are all about SOLUTIONS! Along with workshops, newsletters, and budget study groups, we are committed to sharing our resources and research with one another to help bring about those solutions.

One of the most valuable resources we have found has been the book , “Building A Better Local Government, How To Lower Taxes and Improve services At The Same Time” by Matthew Falconer

I would like to read a brief excerpt from this book and encourage the taxpayers to visit to find out how they can be part of the solution. I especially would like to implore the Commissioners to look at the proven case studies in this book and start exploring steps toward improving the efficiency of this local government body. We will continue to remind taxpayers that we are the one’s picking up the TAB.

Mr. Falconer writes, “Our current local government model is not sustainable. The level of government spending is forcing small businesses to fail at a rapid rate, causing higher unemployment and an increased need for social services. Only through transformative change can we return to economic prosperity. We have a long way to go from the way our government is run to a better government. But the ways and means are there. It is up to you, the taxpayer to demand change. After concluding my study , I came to truly believe that we can reduce the cost of government by 20 % and get 20 % better government services, if we can enact the right reforms.”


What is your view of the county budget? Do you think taxes are too high? Are there programs that you think have outlived their usefulness? Tell us here with a comment, or email us at:

BCC 7/20 – Meg Shannon

I am Meg Shannon, Director of Operations for the South Florida Tea Party, which is a coalition partner in TAB, the Palm Beach Taxpayer’s Action Board.
Many government entities and grass roots groups have found ways to make significant spending reductions at the local government level. Here are some examples.

Orange County, FL

A Taxpayer Review Board identified tremendous waste and duplication of services due to a lack of technology and a failure to use private services.

Lake Worth, FL

A recent Palm Beach Post editorial concluded Lake Worth was “talking about real cuts while Palm Beach County commissioners spent the week avoiding them”.

New Jersey

A Citizens’ Campaign issued a “Jersey Call for Service” to inspire 5,000 citizens to participate in the leadership of their communities and reverse the tide of government waste.

San Jose, California: (June 28, 2010 Ventura County Star)

They saved $ 4 million by hiring private contractors for custodial services at $12.83/hour, including benefits, compared to $40.41 for city custodians.

South Florida cities

Sunrise, Hollywood, Pembroke Pines, and Fort Lauderdale are cutting back on pension benefits.

Other Examples

Many, many other examples could be discussed, such as Charlotte, NC, Beverly Hills, CA, Orange County, CA, Las Vegas, NV



We ask the Commission to require that all departments of county government, including constitutional offices, cooperate with TAB as it goes about its work. We expect to have a huge reaction from the public as we ask them, including our South Florida Tea Party members and current and former county employees for their suggestions on cost savings. We will look at what has been done in other states and counties.

We expect the support of the news media in shining a spotlight on any failure of county government to work to decrease spending and restructure itself. If necessary, we will pursue state legislative efforts to require local government units to cooperate, consolidate, and study ways to achieve significant reductions in expenditures.

Duplication must be eliminated. Services must be contracted outside government where it can be done cheaper. Government employees should only be doing core government functions, not providing services the private business sector can do cheaper and more efficiently, and without the long term pension costs resulting from government employment.

I’m a member of the TAB coalition and one of the taxpayers picking up the tab for county spending.

Next Page »