Some Random Thoughts on the Budget (re: the Commission’s Budget Meeting on Tuesday, September 14)

  • City authorities should accept that the City of Coral Gables is in a real long-term budget crisis that will only get worse unless significant cost cutting and a deep reorganization is performed by city management.
  • The budget should be based on a realistic and educated awareness of the economic, financial, community and business future of Coral Gables–city authorities may be way too optimistic about an early economic recovery.
  • The biggest danger to the financial future of the city is the huge unresolved pension and health care benefit liabilities–a recent step in reducing benefits for general employees needs to be followed with similar agreements with police and firefighters (the “golden employees” of Coral Gables).
  • Public security costs, which are more than 50% of the city’s budget, seem to be untouchable–these costs have to be reduced to solve the budget crisis.
  • The city has been too slow to make the internal organizational reforms to streamline services and reduce the number of middle and upper management staff that certainly would make it more efficient and help prioritize critical services to the citizens, businesses and visitors.  Someone (commissions or management) appears to resisting significant staff reductions at the middle and higher management levels.
  • The city authorities are greatly underestimating the negative impact of the economic recession and tax increases on individual taxpayers who have suffered huge losses in both their assets and incomes.  Many taxpayers are not able to sustain further property tax increases.
  • As far as the citizens know, the problem of Biltmore Hotel operator’s failure to pay its lease has been postponed until after the budget and taxes are approved.  This is concerning because we do not know if the future negotiation will lead to another favorable agreement with the Biltmore operator that in turn forgives significant debts to the city and loads the losses on taxpayers.

About Stephen E. McGaughey
International consultant in economic development programs and projects

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