Doubts On The Budget For The City of Coral Gables

The follow summarizes my doubts about the budget and where we stand with city taxing and financing.  My largest concern is that this budget assumes that the economy will come roaring back along with tax revenues.  This is completely wrong–we are headed into multiple years of slow growth, unemployment and underemployment and a shortage of State and Federal funding to mitigate local problems.
The city is basically holding taxes steady this year, when they should be reduced.
  • tax rates–still too high and they should be cut to help local taxpayers.  Taxpayers are not getting any real relief with the current proposal for a minuscule tax rate cut.
  • staffing–staffing reductions havestagnated and certain staffing is being increased to manage the so-called renaissance plan.
  • unfunded pension liabilities–these liabilities are still quite high (about $200 million) and management has elected to pay in the minimum legally required contribution.  When will the city pay them off.  Is the city praying for a sustained stock market recovery.
  • The debt surge seems wrong in the face of the other problems of the city.  These monies are needed to pay unfunded health benefits and pensions.
  • When will the unresolved Biltmore lease dispute get resolved.  We are out of pocket substantial funds that are being paid for by taxpayers–that in part explains the trivial tax cut planned for this year.
  • The Miracle Mile is stagnant if not in plain decline relative to other shopping centers.
  • The city has the practice of promoting over spending on unproductive public works, museums, i.e., the renaissance investment plan and debt surge.
  • The real estate market will be stagnant for years to come.  Right?
  • Incomes and employment will stagnate in South Florida for years ahead.

It’s Budget Time for Coral Gables

The Miami Herald reviews the budget proposal.

Are here is the new budget:

http://www.citybeautiful.net/CGWeb/documents/finance_docs/CCG_Budget_2011-2012.pdf

Here is the page with the previous budget documents and annual reports of the city:

http://www.coralgables.com/CGWeb/dep_documents.aspx?DeptID=DeptID16

Coral Gables Property Values–Another Demonstration of “Transparency”

Wondering what he is waiting for–instructions from the “boss.”

Or could it be that he is waiting to see what’s happening with the mysterious Biltmore negotiations?

Or could it be the roll-back millage rate for Coral Gables?

 

Others are taking a wait-and-see approach. Coral Gables Finance Director Don Nelson said he is waiting for more information to get a clearer picture of budget forces before he could comment. The city’s tax base stayed flat at $11.8 billion in the past 12 months.

via South Florida cities find silver lining in real esate news – Miami-Dade – MiamiHerald.com.

Coral Gables’ Property Values Unchanged–No Taxpayer Relief Coming

Is this good news for Coral Gables’ taxpayers?

  • There is no hope of getting any relief from the city commission on property taxes this year;
  • The double dip in real estate values right now (not included in these new estimates) means next year’s property values will hold constant or fall in Coral Gables–again, no relief in property values;
  • Property assessments are mess–there will be many challenges to the assessments.
  • With Renaissance Debt and Spending Program being more important than than careful, conservative financial management to the commissioners and city manager, there will be no tax relief now or in the future.

Dear Taxpayers:  elections are a waste of time.

Be Careful Coral Gables, The Future is Very Uncertain–No Time for More Debt

Le’t hope that the commission and city manager of Coral Gables think hard again about the city’s economy and the need for more debt at a very uncertain time.  Paciencia!

Even the optimists are nervous about the next few months. It’s possible that some of the gloomy data reflect excessive caution ahead of several key events: The end of the Federal Reserve’s asset purchases, the resolution of the U.S. debt-ceiling soap opera, the resolution of Europe’s fiscal disaster, and the ability of the developing world to achieve its soft landing.

If all of those go well or even just OK, the future might look a little brighter at the end of the summer. And if they don’t? We may look back on this spring with fond memories.

via Will the economic slump last? MarketWatch First Take – MarketWatch.

And The City of Coral Gables Going In Debt!

The irrationality of the city manager’s proposal and the commissioners’ approval of a new spending and debt package for Coral Gables is now crowned by the persistent double dip in housing prices across the country.

The blind push for spending and debt, sacrificing taxpayers and employees in the process, is a hugely disappointing outcome of the recent election.

The ominous new drop for the Standard & Poor’s/Case-Shiller index of 20 cities, a key measure that is closely watched by economists, casts further doubt about the future of the housing market’s recovery. The index pushed below its previous bottom hit in April 2009, confirming a much-feared double-dip in home prices.

via Case-Shiller home-price index hits new low – latimes.com.

Welcome Messrs. Cason, Quesada and Kerdyk: A List of Some of Your Considerable Challenges

Congratulations to Messrs. Cason, Quesada and Kerdyk.  Thank you for your willingness to take on the big issues of the city of Coral Gables.

We trust you will forge hard questions about the considerable problems we are facing.

Here are a few big challenges for the near term:

  • Shift the financial and institutional  leadership back to the commission from the city manager.  This means more commission involvement in pension reform, financial planning and organizational restructuring.
  • Create true financial transparency, not hiding audits, honesty about reserves, no more games with the budget–people are expecting no more tax increases.
  • Do some minimal long-term financial planning.
  • Introduce new practices of citizen involvement and participation.
  • You need to think the unthinkable.   Shouldn’t the city  consider the full range of alternatives for the Biltmore, including its semi-privatization or its return to the federal government, with all of its liabilities (I know, that’s unthinkable).  Can the city cannot continue with the Biltmore as a large financial albatross–let’s hear a serious discussion of this in the commission.
  • Take a hard look at the city’s public security costs.  Will the commission and city manager please evaluate publicaly the police and firefighter needs at a technical and administrative level, rather treating these services as “untouchables.”
  • Pension reform requires an active commission with clear goals and plans, not just piecemeal negotiations.
  • The city seems to be stuck with a nonfunctional museum that may need its permanent financial support.  Can someone make an open and honest appraisal of what is going on at the museum.
  • Miracle Mile now denotes a certain declining quality in its retail businesses, rather than it being a leading and dynamic retail center.  Miracle Mile has lost its way–can we get an objective view of that before we spend millions on its so-called “streetscape.”