TAB Members and Supporters,
The first budget workshop of the 2013 cycle is upon us, next Tuesday, June 12, at 6:00pm at the Government Center, 301 N. Olive, WPB, 6th floor.
This year's initial package and presentation is a pleasant change from the last few years in that the property valuations are bottoming out and the rate increase being sought is modest. There are no cuts to programs designed to provoke the annual "Kabuki dance" of beneficiaries come to loudly protest. Neither are there sharp increases in any areas which we would find troubling. Starting with a 0.35% increase in county-wide millage ($3.9M in tax increase in a $599M tax proposal), it is a plan that could be held to flat millage with little additional effort if the commissioners desired.
You will recall that last year, much effort on the part of a TAB and others and the commitment of 3 of the 7 commissioners to prevent a tax increase, narrowed that bump to 0.66%. This year's starting point is half of that. The proposal also includes the use of some reserves to close the gap, a step that was much resisted by the Administrator when we suggested it last year, and finally utilized to resolve a $7M problem in the final meeting.
Although this proposal, if adopted, would be an acceptable result by last year's criteria for "success", we must remain vigilant as the outcome is far from certain. The cover letter points out that it has been several years since county employees have had a raise. It also lists 35 eliminated positions (half of them filled). There have been suggestions of increases sought in some programs. The Local 3181, Communications Workers of America was quoted in the media as seeking a raise for the county employees they represent. Some of the folks that come to the budget hearings to defend their programs can be expected to seek increases in spending after several years of austerity. Some of the commissioners are on record as opposing elimination of any jobs.
As in years past, it is important to be represented at the workshop. Come to the meeting next Tuesday and speak up - say you would prefer to see no increase in the tax rate this year, and do not think the time has come to even consider any increases in spending while the economy is still so fragile. If you can't attend, call or send an email to your commissioner.
Last week we witnessed an amazing thing in Wisconsin. The all-out assault on Governor Walker, whose programs have begun to address the unsustainable growth in the Wisconsin public sector, has been decisively routed. Through his initiative, even at the county and city level in that state, elected officials have new tools to get control of their budgets. Here in Palm Beach County, perhaps we too can do our part to slow or reverse the growth of government.
Hope to see you all on Tuesday.
For more, please see: TAB View of 2013 County Budget Proposal
Taxpayer Action Board