To the editor:
At this past Monday's Council meeting, several actions of particular import and impact were taken. I refer to Resolutions 24-12, 25-12 and Administrative Discussion Item J1 which established a tentative millage rate embodying a 2.8 percent tax increase.
The two Resolutions concerned the UEP; specifically, the hiring of a professional services firm to provide engineering/design specifications for UEP area SW 6/7. The other Resolution was for hiring a manager for that project. Both of these Resolutions had 100 percent Slick 6 support in spite of the fact that Council has yet to learn what is so "hidden in the weeds" they will never find it and not withstanding that the updated water and sewer rate study promised to be forthcoming five months ago has not yet been provided.
This update should address the impact of Council's failure to enact the proposed infill capital assessment. This assessment would have recouped the cost to provide system capacity necessary to service undeveloped land in areas where water and sewer service is currently available.
What would be the result felt by the water and sewer rate payers should a significant percentage of the 3,000 off water lots in SW 6/7 be abandoned by their owners should they decide not to spend another $18K to $20K on land worth approximately $4K?
What is the impact to current rate payers if "underwater" homeowners decide not to accept an additional $20K in debt on a wasting asset? Who will lend them the necessary funds when they have negative equity in their homes?
This will adversely affect the current ratepayer as the bonding agency or lender to the city will look to the income stream they generate to retire the new $90M in UEP debt. Remember approximately $6M of utility reserves were spent on the recent massive land speculation deal.
How can Council be expected to make considered informed decisions when major parts of the equation are not yet available? Why hire a $100K plus manager for a project that has yet to be adequately analyzed?
Not to worry. Staff has assured Council they really do not need the information to make these decisions as the impact of the above occurrences will be negligible.
As a former councilmember I am no stranger to staff manipulations and misinformation. The worst example of this was perhaps made by the then finance director when presenting Ordinance 55-08 to amend the budget. Council was told that $134M in cash brought forward would all go into reserves. After approval we later learned that less than half that amount did. The most recent example of misinformation was made on Monday when the police chief during a discussion with the mayor over concerns that a proposed license plate scanner may impinge privacy rights. It was stated that the information obtained via the proposed scanner was public record and that as a citizen anyone could call Tallahassee, give them a tag number and get the name of the owner of that vehicle. Not so. It used to be that a licensed Florida private investigator could obtain a State issued PIN number and gain access to that information. Even this is no longer true. A mere private individual certainly is not made privy that information.
Sometimes even after leaving city employment ex-staffers may continue to dabble in misinformation and deception. Witness the recent news from Sarasota where a former city purchasing manager then working for Sarasota County was forced to resign after an ethics inquiry discovered irregularities in contracting and an attempted cover-up.
I believe the above will not only result in an increase of ad valorem taxes, but also an increase in already high water and sewer rates plus a rise in foreclosures and abandoned property in SW 6/7.
Look also for Council to bring forth a wage increase for general employees and proposals for new sources of revenue, i.e. public service taxes. The bottom line is that you will have less of your income to spend as you see fit in the coming year.