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Stewart’s Blog: City Salaries Increased Because Taxpayers Demanded It! Really….You Did!.

Posted on May 9, 2016

Stewart’s Blog: City Salaries Increased Because Taxpayers Demanded It! Really….You Did!.

You want to know why the City of Tallahassee’s average salaries have increased 22% since 2008 while teachers, state workers and most everyone else has just held on in this lackluster economy?

Because you, the taxpayer demanded it. In fact, it was a community priority.

You say you are confused.

I can clear it up, if you are ready for a wild ride through the City’s approach to budgeting and spending.

Buckle up….here we go!

FSU Professor Shawn Kantor, recruited by the Citizens for Responsible Spending, told the City Commission at their last budget workshop that since 201o City spending has grown three times faster than the rate of population growth.

He also revealed that City spending was growing faster than the financial means of the taxpayers as measured by growth in wages, jobs and property values.

He had two simple charts that conveyed his message.

Instead of thanking Professor Kantor for his time and insight, City Manager Rick Fernandez said he felt ambushed.

Since that meeting, the City has been silent until last week when they released the agenda for this weeks budget workshop.  The agenda, to the surprise of some, never addresses Dr. Kantor’s findings or any other concerns put forth by citizens at previous meetings.

In other words, the work by the citizens groups to inform the City about their concerns has been ignored.

Why was the information ignored? Well, we may have the answer.

You see, the City’s brain-trust informed the public this past weekend that the City does not use population growth to determine how much the City should spend on services.

City Manager Rick Fernandez told a local reporter that “I’m not sure there should be a linear relationship between population and the General Fund,” said Fernandez, who noted many different factors impact city finances. Spending, he said, “has risen because of community priorities and the simple costs of doing business.”

So at least now we know why the excessive growth in the General Fund when compared to population growth does not concern the newly appointed City Manager.

Let us move on.

Professor Kantor also suggested that employment, wages and property values should be weighed against city spending, since that’s the reality in which residents live.

So maybe the City is concerned about the financial well being of the people they tax when developing a spending plan, right? Sounds reasonable.

Not exactly.

Robert Wigen, a member of the City’s Financial Management team, said the City doesn’t connect its General Fund spending to things like wages and employment.

Well Mr. Wigen, how does the City get a fix on how much they can spend?

Are you ready for this?

“We’re looking at service level, expectations from the community, what their priorities are and then within the departments meeting those priorities,” Wigen said.

Really? So the community that has endured stagnant wage growth for the last six years made double digit growth in City salaries a “priority.”

I doubt that “priority” will show up in any City sponsored survey.

Anyway, we will see Wednesday which City Commissioners buy into this approach to spending your money.

But remember, ultimately, it is only you, the taxpayer, that can end this nonsense!

14 Responses to Stewart’s Blog: City Salaries Increased Because Taxpayers Demanded It! Really….You Did!.

  1. HOPE & CHANGE Reply

    May 9, 2016 at 10:55 pm

    Welcome to “Animal Farm”. We are poorer because it is our “priority”. Joesph Goebbels, as Minister of Propaganda, could not say this with a straight face. My guess is Robert Wigens is now the new “Minister of Truth”. As depicted by George Orwell, it must be true because the Minister of Truth says it is true.
    I wonder when the City Manager is going to announce who is the new “Minister of Plenty”. I am sure that is now a “priority” to convince the local farm animals, i.e. voters, that they have plenty to give the Government for higher salaries and benefits.
    Ladies and Gentleman, these people are lying to you.

  2. Rosemary N. Palmer Reply

    May 10, 2016 at 9:24 am

    Most of the city salary increases have been raises negotiated by fire and police. Other staff has historically been given what those units negotiate, though that has not been universal in the last ten years. And merit increases have long been part of basic city employee consideration, even when they are not in addition to a cost of living raise gotten by everyone.

    So in the sense that this community wants good public safety, it is fair to say that much, if not all, of the city wage increase has been supported by the public.

    • Preston Scott

      Preston Scott Reply

      May 10, 2016 at 4:14 pm

      Talking to rank and file officers would indicate the pay increases were not necessarily due to collective bargaining with the PBA. The bottom line, Rosemary, is the City is giving raises beyond the ability of taxpayers to support. It is about to be 25% of increases compared the all workers getting just over 7% (keeping in mind some of that increase comes from City workers). The issue is not merit, it is government taking money from taxpayers when the taxpayers are not doing too well.

  3. brad Reply

    May 10, 2016 at 10:23 am

    While the insiders are “looking at service level expectations from the community, what their priorities are and then within the departments meeting those priorities” Pick your path to the liberal progressive land of rainbows and safe places where the leprechauns gold is just another tax increase away from running this community out of business. All awhile the corruption, lack of integrity, moral or ethical backbone is praised by the elected city commissioners, employees, low information voters, SOME businesses and citizens on the take in one form or another.

  4. Ken Reply

    May 10, 2016 at 11:49 am

    Safety, you think the government can provide you with safety WOW! Talk about people who don’t pay attention to history. So, if daddy is what we have been provided for the past decade of increased government salaries then why is Tallahassee, Florida ONone of the most dangerous cities in the U.S…..We weren’t always but it sure seems to coincide with the increase in police state spending, crime goes up. The more money you spend stopping crime, the more crime there is to stop all the while the real criminals, those in public office, run free.

  5. Paul Henry Reply

    May 10, 2016 at 2:02 pm

    Sounds like Prof. Kantor got more time than I did (3 minutes) to present about red light cameras when I did so in January 2015. At least the city came to their financial $en$e$ on that issue. IMO, due to political apathy we get the government we deserve.

  6. Preston Scott

    Preston Scott Reply

    May 10, 2016 at 4:16 pm

    There are two solutions: elect Commissioners who will dismantle the senior management and bring in a fresh set of eyes; or force the Commission to go to the voters for tax increases. We will see soon if Commissioners are finally going to question the veracity of the staff’s financial numbers.

  7. Thomas C. Hooker Reply

    May 11, 2016 at 7:52 am

    I read a story this morning in the Tallahassee Democrat that the city staff was proposing another 2% pay raise this year and 2.5% pay raise next year.

    I went to the Tallahassee Democrat facebook page to read the comments and leave a comment. I have been banned from leaving comments.

    As Sonny Branch used to say: “It’s a cabal” up at city hall and the local newspaper runs cover.

  8. BEC Reply

    May 11, 2016 at 11:32 am

    I wonder how much more money Andy is looking for this year.

    • deanmike Reply

      May 12, 2016 at 5:38 pm

      He can just add on another full time job. He only has three jobs right now. Mayor, People for the American Way……..Foundation, and some kind of DNC job in FL.

      I wonder how many full time positions a single human can have before the IRS takes a look and says “Hmmmm….When does the man sleep?”

      Maybe is is a super hero.

  9. Sean Reply

    May 11, 2016 at 2:25 pm

    It is time for more local voter referendums to constrain the City. As a business owner and someone who owns multiple properties, I resent paying a huge tax increase so that friends of the City and the CRA and the Downtown clan can pilfer taxpayer dollars for their own profitable ventures.

    It sickens me to no end that rich lobbyists get a free building to build a restaurant at the Edison (taxpayer dine) and other well connected access hundreds of thousands of dollars for their own private ventures – to build buildings and restaurants and patios.

    Its really starting to piss me off and I think someone should start a referendum to require all this to be voter approved.

  10. Robert Reply

    May 25, 2016 at 2:01 pm

    Went into my boss today and explained to him that I needed a raise because of my wife’s ‘expectations’ of a better life, car and house. When he finished laughing, he explained to me that in the real world, people have to live on what they have and not what they want. I explained to him using the City’s logic, but he was unmoved.
    Can you imagine hiring someone and letting them set the wage? Me either. We elect people to spend our money, but WE THE PEOPLE should decide how much money they can spend. Every tax increase should be explained, justified and voted for by the people who pay it, not the ones who spend it.
    Vive la Revolution!

  11. Charles Reply

    June 26, 2016 at 10:34 am

    While City employees have been fortunate to get small cost of living increases yearly, the State and County employees haven’t. Why aren’t those agencies being criticized for asking their work forces to continue to fall behind? I understand most of the posts on this subject, but do not understand why the posters think a lack of increases is a good thing.

    Providing and maintaining excellent customer service requires trained and committed staff. I believe the City does a very good job providing service from every department in the organization. If you disagree with senior management, don’t extend your dissatisfaction to the worker bees.

  12. Joe Moye Reply

    July 1, 2016 at 11:21 pm

    We should shut up and stop whining. These public princes deserve how ever large a percentage of our money as they think fit.

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