County Commission District 1 Candidate Forum

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Palm Beach County Commission District 1

Candidate Forum

Join us for an evening of in-depth discussion of county issues with the three Republican candidates competing to replace term-limited commmissioner Karen Marcus.

Moderated by Tom Boyhan, WJTW FM100.3

June 18, 2012
6:00pm Meet and Greet, 7:00 Program
Abacoa Golf Club
105 Barbados Drive, Jupiter, Florida 33458

Food and Drink Available

The candidates are:

This event is jointly sponsored by:

Jupiter/Tequesta Republican Organization
Palm Beach County Taxpayer Action Board
Palm Beach County Tea Party
Palm Beach Republican Club
Republican Club of the Northern Palm Beaches
Republican Club of the Palm Beaches
Singer Island Civic Association
South Florida 912

This forum has been organized to feature the district one candidates appearing on the August ballot. Gardens Mayor David Levy, also a candidate for the position, is unopposed on the Democrat ticket and will face the eventual winner of this August contest in November.

BCC to Discuss $29M in Spending Reductions

At the Tuesday, May 15 Commission Meeting, agenda items 5a2 and 5a3 deal with an “efficiency audit” performed by consultants Gerstle, Rosen & Goldenberg at the request of county administration.

The audit found areas of significant savings, both in county operations and in the constitutional offices (except the Sheriff who evidently refused to answer any of their questions), estimated in the range of $29M. They looked in four areas: operating efficiencies, outsourcing, staff reductions, and additional sources of revenue. (It appears that only the outsourcing will be discussed in 5a2, and 5a3 addresses efficiencies regarding the constitutional offices).

These savings involve the elimination of 921 positions, mostly through outsourcing, and the bulk of the savings comes from reduction in benefit obligations.

With the county facing a potential $15M shortfall in the 2013 budget to be discussed at the first workshop on June 12, searching for areas to reduce spending is sorely needed and this study is an excellent move in that direction. Staff should be commended for both commissioning the study and for bringing it to the board for direction.

We are not overly optimistic that this initiative will be warmly embraced however. Already, the counter-arguments have begun. Chairman Vana says “My goal was never to try to get rid of a million people”. OFMB Director Bloesser warns that “it was unlikely that many of the findings could be put into effect before the budget year begins on Oct. 1”. Clerk Bock says that the proposed savings in her office are “incorrect and irresponsible”.

Nevertheless, this is the kind of direction that TAB has been calling for for several years, and we ask partners and supporters of TAB to attend the Tuesday session in support of the consultants proposals, or communicate your views to your commissioner.

The full content of the report can be found in the attachment for item 5a2 and the initial reactions are captured in the Palm Beach Post: Consultant: Palm Beach County can save $32M with 1,000 job cuts, add $3M with rate hike.

A Look at the Candidates for County Office at the Voters Coalition

“Half Baked” Tax Proposal put back in the oven for another year

“Half baked” – that is how Commissioner Steve Abrams described Bob Weisman’s proposal to put a $100M, half percent sales tax surcharge on the November ballot.

We agree. Even Commissioner Taylor, who seems to believe our money belongs to her (“We’re not exercising our RIGHT” to raise these taxes) thought the proposal needed a little more development.

Normally, county staff does a good job on budget proposals. We don’t always agree with their priorities, but they do offer justifications and complete analysis. This proposal seemed to drop out of thin air a week ago and postulated $100M more in revenues for unspecified “transportation” projects with no sunset. A vague suggestion of possible offsets to property taxes was contained in the agenda item, but there was no Powerpoint presentation, no forward projections, no discussion of the trends in existing transportation funding like the gas tax.

The commmissioners, to their credit, recognized the difficulty in selling such an open ended proposal and all wanted to table the issue until the staff could come back with a more thought-out package. Those that were OK with raising the sales tax (Taylor, Vana, Aaronson), wanted staff to return in a month so there would still be time to put it on the November ballot. Those not so keen on the idea (Burdick, Abrams, Marcus), preferred to table it until next year or indefinitely. Karen Marcus suggested that when the TriRail expansion occurs, we may need the money more than we do now. (Ouch !).

It is clear that if the proposal were to come back in a month, a lot of time and resources would have to be spent by TAB and others in order to develop counter arguments. With the budget workshops coming up in June, that would be a considerable distraction. It was starting to look at one point that we would have another 4-3 vote in that direction, but Commissioner Santamaria joined with the taxpayer-friendly commissioners to table the issue until next year.

Thank you to all who came to the meeting and spoke against the proposal, including Alex Larson, Pat Cooper, Fred and Iris Scheibl, Janet Campbell, Nancy Hogan, and Rick Roth.

TAB Note: The discussion of transportation funding has shined a light on the budget dynamics of Palm Tran, which we were astounded to learn is more than 90% subsidized. Since only a small part is ad-valorem funded, TAB has not paid it much mind in the past, but now it will get some scrutiny for sure.