Martino: Council Should Add a Budget Workshop in August

In my last “Martino Minute” presentation I began a discussion on opinions that I have concerning the City of Palm Beach Gardens budget process. I would like to continue with some further observations critiquing the City Council’s involvement, or lack thereof, in the budget process.

The most obvious premise about any budget is that it needs to be funded with money. The City of Palm Beach Gardens budget monies are partially raised from various fees, non-City taxes, assessments, and so forth. However, the major budget funding source is from property taxes imposed on residents and business property owners, or the people.

If the people constitute the government it stands to reason that the people are entitled to know how the thought processes of their elected representatives lead to actions on the people’s behalf, particularly when it comes to creating a budget. This is inherent and basic to open government. From my observations while attending various City Council meetings, this City Council is simply is not measuring up to the people’s needs and expectations, particularly when it comes to communication, openness, and accountability.

The City Council of Palm Beach Gardens meets for general business meetings only once per month. Workshop meetings are a rarity. Being kind that is woefully inadequate. It degrades the opportunity for communication, openness, and accountability. Last year there were only two publicly scheduled budget meetings held both of which are required by law. These meetings were perfunctory and sterile with little input by the City Council as to the rationalization of the budget content. No publicly scheduled workshop meetings were held that I was aware of for the City Council to give policy direction or ask any pertinent questions concerning the budget. It should be acknowledged that there is an unelected, volunteer Citizens Budget Committee that holds a series of open meetings to make budget recommendations to the City Council, whose work I appreciate and applaud. The public hearings did little to recognize this committee’s efforts.

The City Council needs to and should hold more publicly scheduled workshop type meetings in general and more particularly concerning the City’s budget. Is this micro-managing? No, not in the least! The people need to know how their government is spending their money. It’s important to know personnel costs are approaching 50% of the general fund budget. It’s important for the people to hear the policy directions given and the questions asked by the elected officials of the administrators and what the answers are or aren’t. It’s simply elected officials doing the “people’s business” in the light of day and not the dark of the back room.

If they are listening, I would encourage the City Council to publicly schedule at least one public workshop meeting on the budget in August other than the regular August 6th meeting. Further, I would recommend the establishment of a tax millage rate for the 2015-16 fiscal year at the rollback rate of approximately 5.4729 inclusive of debt service or, perhaps, something even less.

One can always wish and hope.

Speak Your Mind

Tell us what you're thinking...