Robert Burr’s Comments on the 2009-2010 Budget Options: Call to Action
July 28, 2009 1 Comment
I copy Robert Burr’s email to the community about Coral Gables’ budget challenges:
Once in a while, we need to pay attention to what’s happening in city government. This is a time to share your opinions with city leaders in Coral Gables. After years of spending increases, home values rising at astronomical rates, millage rate increases, salaries, benefits and pension increases that clearly are not sustainable — and a luxury lifestyle of fine wine and dining for city officials — it’s time for a reality check in Coral Gables.
Our new city manager has a daunting task. Rein in all the waste and excess while retaining the most important services to citizens. Now, our leaders need our help in making important decisions. They’re proposing new fees on us now to increase their budgets once again. Apparently, they’re not getting the message to cut budget expenses further. It’s time to communicate with them — now.
Recently, citizens felt the need to set limits on their leaders. You voted for term limits for the mayor and commissioners. You voted to elect the mayor every two years, as we’ve done since the city was founded. You voted against allowing the city manager to spend up to $100,000 without commission approval. You voted to keep the city trail board in place to oversee important management decisions.
Now, it’s time to give our city leaders some limits on how our money will be spent. Like any well-run business, we must aspire to keep our cost under control and set limits on how we spend the funds mandated to be assessed from citizens. We want the system to be fair, transparent, efficient and operated within sound parameters.
Your Coral Gables Citizen’s PAC has recently urged commissioners and the city manager to use common sense in reducing expenses in all city departments. While the city has proposed to cut some of the lowest paying jobs, the PAC is recommending reduction in salaries at higher levels.
“The cutting of part time employees is sometimes the least economical since they are paid the least and may not be getting benefits. We should be looking at the top. We have over 80 City employees making over $100,000. We know there is slack in the higher echelons and they can be reduced. The greatest savings would be at that level. We strongly urge the 5% cut across the board for all employees who are making more than $35,000; 10% across the board cut for all employees making more than $80,000 and less than $130,000; and 15% cut across the board for all employees making more than $130,000 (or some other graduated scale but topping out at least at 15%). In addition, we need to look where we can cut personnel at the higher levels so that each cut will make a large savings. When hiring replacements, if necessary, they should come in at the lowest possible level.”
Next, citizens must consider whether to put a cap on the overall percentage of the city budget that can be allocated to salaries, benefits and pensions. Most large companies limit these expenses to 50% of their budget.
Our city salaries, benefits and pensions are nearing 80% of the budget, which is far out of control. Citizens can initiate a ballot measure in the next election cycle limiting these expenses to 50, 55 or 60% of the total budget, allowing management and commissioners to decide how best to spend the funds within that limit.
It’s up to our management and leaders now to make significant progress on these out of control expenses. Let’s urge them to get their costs under control now.
If they can’t do it, the citizens will once again set these necessary limits which their leaders are unable or unwilling to do.
Whether you agree with me or not, please share your opinions with city leaders today.
Robert A. Burr