City Budgeting – a Tale of Perverse Priorities

Our recent analysis of spending on “green” programs has documented the clear priority of city leadership in achieving the “living green” dream.

Green expenditures in the fiscal year 2009 budget include $10 million for smart meters, $7 million for energy conservation, and $300,000 for the creation of the green department. These 3 programs total $17,300,000 in spending in fiscal year 2009.

The immediate benefits of these expenditures to the citizens of Tallahassee are non-existent and our research indicates the long-term benefits are questionable. Remember, smart meter success depends on the level of participation 2 or 3 years from now and the conservation programs were found not to be cost-effective, but were adopted anyway.

While the benefits are not readily apparent, the costs of pursuing such policies are hidden deep within the City of Tallahassee budget. These costs are found in programs that touch many citizens but were cut due to “current financial pressures.”

It is time that the citizens of Tallahassee understand some of the budgeting priorities of the Tallahassee City Commission. We can find $17,300,000 for programs with questionable immediate or long term benefits during times of “financial stress” but we cut the following:

  • The Youth Travel Team Program – the total annual cost $2,400 (Equal to one of Mayor Marks’ sister city trips).  Participants include approximately 250-300 children.
  • The DARE Program – the total annual cost $15,071. Participants include elementary age school children.
  • After School Drop-In Program– the total annual cost $90,000. Participants include hundreds of children from single parent families or families of working parents.
  • Elimination of Crossing Guard Program – the annual cost $50,000. Affected citizens include worried parents and hundreds of elementary aged school children.
  • Reduction in Adults Sports Programs – the total annual cost $72,000.
  • Special Event Police Security– the total annual cost is approximately $100,000. Affected citizens include the thousands who attend events such as Springtime Tallahassee and Downtown GetDowns.

The total expenditures for the programs outlined above is approximately $330,000. The number of citizens affected has to be in the tens of thousands and mostly under the age of 18.

What is going on? Do the people in Tallahassee truly understand and endorse these priorities?

3 Responses to "City Budgeting – a Tale of Perverse Priorities"

  1. Losing DARE is no loss. It is widely recognized as an ineffective program that has no demonstrable effect on drug use. That is, teens who are DARE grads are no less likely to use drugs than teens who aren’t. So let’s not feel too bad about not spending money on that irrespective of opinions about the various green initiatives.

  2. What is even more amazing… Alan Katz was on a radio show recently and was talking about selling the utility.

    This struck me as odd since the city is expending millions to install smart meters… something that would simply benefit a new owner… and not benefit homeowners until variable pricing is implemented, or automation of homes…

    What is even more frustrating is, as the article alludes to, the PSC reviews programs such as our utility, but has no teeth in regulating the rates. The rationale behind this is that the utility is overseen by an elected body… However, my rebuttal is that the city’s utility supplies power to non-city residents (who can’t vote in city elections).

    There needs to be a move to have regulation of our utility!

    If Tallahasseeans feel electricity is expensive now… wait until we have to pay a middle man.

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