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Posted on May 9, 2016
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.
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!