An unfair tale of two cities: An open letter to Mayor Stanczyk: Let’s compare Palmetto Bay to Key Biscayne which now has planned for more $13 million in unallocated reserves, not the City of Miami when budgeting.

Palmetto Bay is not the City of Miami. It should be compared to the Village of Key Biscayne where the Key Biscayne Council just passed their budget with a $1.3 million surplus which will be added to the $12 million that the Village had in the bank.  This in the same budget year that Palmetto Bay spends down $2.3 million of its current unallocated reserves.

As reported in the Miami Herald : “Key Biscayne approves budget” (by Sydney Towne): While some cities are planning to take money from their savings to cover expenses next year, Key Biscayne’s budget calls for ending 2012-13 with a $1.3 million surplus. That will add to about $12 million the village had in the bank Jan. 1.  Now this is an example of providing services as well as planning for a rainy day.

What reasonable person would not hold out Key Biscayne as the comparison model to Palmetto Bay over the City of Miami? Yet, Mayor Stanczyk recently compared our reserves to the City of Miami, I would guess as an excuse to allow her to raid the hard fought reserves both years she has served as mayor. Mayor Stanczyk’s use of Miami’s $500K reserve has been viewed by some, as whistling past the graveyard, as the saying goes.

Such a comparison is both disingenuous as well as unfair to the City of Miami which is a full service city, much different in terms of history, challenges and services. Besides, the current city of Miami council was not left with a $11.4 million unallocated reserve to spend down from.  Besides, give mayor Stanczyk time and I have confidence that she will bring down the now budgeted $8 million unallocated reserve to Miami’s current $500,000.

Mayor Stanczyk and vice mayor Pariser have the village heading off a fiscal cliff.  I focused on their lack of long term focus in the September post: Palmetto Bay Budget Review #4. Reaping what you sow.  It is irresponsible to take unallocated reserves down from a high of $11.4 million down to $9 million (as reported in the Miami Herald).

I read Mayor Stanczyk’s comments in the Herald Budget article “Palmetto Bay approves budget” with disbelief:

“… I don’t like to add staff because removing staff is difficult.”

Really Mayor Stanczyk? Then why did you approve adding so many new positions for career service staff in a year that most governments are tightening their belts. As you said, “… it is difficult to remove staff.”

The herald article further clarified her policies on municipal budgeting:

She clarified that the hiring of the two new police officers does not pose a similar problem. Police are easier to remove from the village’s force if and when needed as they are contracted from the Miami-Dade Police Department and are not municipal employees.

Again, really? Are we toying with personnel, keeping them on a ‘short leash’ under threat that their police positions could be cut at any time? This statement sounds more like an apology and does not indicate a long term commitment to the police staffing.

Mayor Stanczyk was a bit off her game in the budget hearing, first alleging at the hearing that only $800K was being taken out of unallocated reserves to balance the budget, but she was corrected by staff and, as reported in the Herald: In total the adopted budget requires $2.27 million from the village’s reserve fund for both operating costs and capital projects. But Stanczyk said the village can safely spend that money because it has much more than it needs in savings.

So much more than it needs in savings? Famous last words. This is an interesting quote from an elected official who campaigned on how every year the reserves were increased while she served as councilmember.

My how things changed once she became mayor. In my opinion, frugal saving has been replaced with free spending under Mayor Stanczyk and VM Pariser.

Finally, she was reported as uttering, “we are providing services in the maintenance of the facilities we are entrusted with. Now we have been fiscally conservative in the fact that we do not have a reserve that is $500,000. That what the city of Miami has.”

My response is “so what.” You can always find someone worse off than you. Take care of yourself without making sure that you are always better than someone. Did you ever hear the phrase “there but for the grace of God go I.”

Maybe not now, but give it a few years mayor Stanczyk. Watch how quickly the unallocated reserve evaporates under you and VM Pariser. $11.4 down to the current budget of $8 million. A million this budget year just to balance the operating budget, but hey, let’s spend $1.3 more just because its burning a hole in your pocket and you plan on being out of office before the bill comes due in 4 more years.

What’s your prediction? Down to $6 million in unallocated reserves next year?  Does anyone else see that financial cliff looming for Palmetto Bay?

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