Sunrise Mayor: County Plays Financial Shell Game

 

BY MIKE RYAN

 

As part of the on-going wrestling match between the County and municipalities over the funding of a regional E-911 system, Commissioner Chip LaMarca published a particularly astonishing letter.

The County has proposed draft “Municipal Services Taxing Unit” (MSTU) Ordinance and an Inter-Local Agreement which must ultimately be agreed to by all participating cities … without any changes once final.   For anyone who has read these draft documents in detail, they are deficient at best, irreparably defective at worst.

County Commissioner Tells Residents to Demand Cities to Act

 

In his letter published in the Sun-Sentinel here, Commissioner Lamarca lectures cities about being “good stewards” of tax dollars:

“However, city leaders will not commit to returning your tax dollars to you if the county increases its tax for this purpose. This scenario creates a dangerous precedent and equates to a “shell game,” in my opinion, because cities can lobby the county in the future to tax you for most any collective service and then move monies around in their own budgets without being accountable to you, the taxpayer.”

I specifically asked the County Commission how does a city “return tax savings to the residents” if the city is in a deficit?   I wanted a real answer, not a bumper sticker political slogan.  I even offered a solution – force every city to disclose the estimated savings in the budget process.

The response: deafening silence.

 County is the Master of Shell Games

 

Since some want to talk about “shell games” and “good stewardship”:

  • The County Commission has been subsidizing BSO contract operations, even after being warned about “double taxation” in 2009?  The “shell game” costs over the past decade are estimated to be over $150,000,000.
  • The County Commission has been using county taxpayer dollars for Port Everglades services.  The Port is an Enterprise Fund, responsible for its own costs.  E-911 communications “shell game” costs alone are estimated to be $600,000 annually.  When will the County Commission seek reimbursement of the millions of dollars from Port Everglades so they can pass on the savings and recovery to the residents?
  • The proposed MSTU seeks authority for the County to issue bonds and indebtedness … for a system that was supposed to be only dealing with operational costs. The proposed ILA defines “operational expenses” to include “capital outlays”?  What type of “shell game” is being planned – where cities do not vote on the capital outlays or bonds, but pay for them?
  • The County is unwilling to define “infrastructure”, a term from the County Charter which sets forth the County’s financial obligations.   Is the County planning a future “shell game”, by redefining current Charter financial requirements as new MSTU expenses?
  • The MSTU costs $775,000 more annually because Community Redevelopment Agencies are entitled to Tax Increment Financing payments from any MSTU by law.  Why did they propose a more costly system?
  • Cooper City has no reason to sign the MSTU because their (sweetheart) contract with BSO covers communications costs … for the next 7 years.  What “shell game” will be employed by the County to allow this funding for BSO?
  • There is NO limitation on future millage impact on the cities, and cities have no say in the budget or governance.  Are we simply to trust future County Commissions to be “good stewards” with our taxing authority and not play new “shell games”?

 

Political Slogans Eclipse Good Decision Making

 

Some County Commissioners voted against the recommendation of the Implementation Board and what cities representing 87% of the County requested – fund this like a regional system through countywide budget dollars.   Why?   Some were concerned that in shifting the costs and achieving overall savings, the County says it might impose a 1/10 or 2/10 millage increase.

  

Tax Bad, Chaos Good.

 

However, the MSTU is also a vote to raise taxes.  It is a County imposed tax, accomplished with city acquiescence – but without giving cities a vote on the impact for their residents.  “Taxation without meaningful representation”?

An alternative was available — take the $9,000,000 in available bridge funding, recover the Port costs, and adjust the County Budget.  Result: it is unlikely there would have been an increase in taxes for the coming year, particularly since the entire system will not be fully operational October 1.

I say, do not blame the cities for being scared to sign in haste and under pressure complex (and presently defective) documents involving one of the most serious public safety issues for our residents …. particularly when the County has mastered the budgetary “shell game”.

(Mike Ryan is the mayor of Sunrise.  He is also, along with Broward County Commissioner Lois Wexler,  a former co-chair of the Broward County Consolidated Communications Committee. )

18 thoughts on “Sunrise Mayor: County Plays Financial Shell Game”

  1. Say what you want about Mayor Ryan. The problem is that he is right. Shooting the messenger won’t solve the problem. The problem is the county not the Mayor.

    If you look at the track record of the county, history repeats itself over and over again.

  2. Thank you for your educated and well researched response to Commissioner LaMarca.

    I find it interesting that Chip has the nerve to say the cities are playing a shell game in light of the fact that he supports the biggest shell game in Broward County, using taxpayer money to bail out Lauderdale Lakes. The same Lauderdale Lakes he recently stated at a Commission meeting was near insolvency. The same Lauderdale Lakes whose currently has one of the highest if the highest millage rates in Broward County.

    So Chip as the good Republican you are, please explain to everyone why you were probably the first to complain about President Obama and his bailouts yet you have no problem backing the bailout of a city that knowingly ran itself into the ground.

    Also, could you explain how you are Mr. “No New Taxes”, yet the only way Lauderdale Lakes can even pay back the 9 million to BSO was to raise their millage rate to the highest amount permitted under Florida Law. Seems very unrepublican.

    Of course Chip’s support of Lauderdale Lakes has nothing to do with Commissioner Dale Holness helping Chip get the support in the only black area in District (deerfield). Here is a pic of Chip, Dale and a Pastor in Deerfield from this weekend.

    https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10151548902626602&set=a.25496756601.32798.706626601&type=1&theater

  3. Chip is seriously outmatched here….Cerebrally out gunned on every front compared to Ryan….The Mayor is so obviously on the right side of this issue that no matter what Chip & his fellow County Commissioners throw out there to confuse joe public, they will fail….This funding issue of our 911 system is far more than just some tax turf battle & political spin….this is about public safety…Our County reps continue to disappoint…Grow up already…..stop w/ the misleading & distracting propaganda…. Try solving some problems…Keep the pressure on them Mayor!

  4. $150 million wasted. Thank you Mayor Ryan for pointing this misfeasances and malfeasances out. Chip LaMarca is raping us along with the other commissioners.

  5. I’m not an attorney, but I do have lots of experience with games government plays. It looks to me as if there are actionable issues raised by Mayor Ryan.

    Mayor Ryan, f you need a Broward County plaintiff, just whistle.

  6. Let me get this straight…
    We are taxed for regional libraries and county parks.
    We voted unanimously a decade ago for a regional 911 system.
    We will get better service and quicker response times.
    We will save $10 mil per year with a regional system (not including the commission slush fund for some cities.)
    We find out that the county commission is secretly subsidizing BSO contracted cities for a $150 mil in a decade.

    and Chip is concerned that a potential savings to cities may not be passed on?
    Chip (and the other 4), how about you worry about the safety of the citizens of Broward and let the cities and their residents worry about their tax savings!!
    Do the right thing that 87% of Broward citizens want and vote for the regional system!!!

  7. Go Charlotte!! And Mayor Ryan as Cousel, Michael Ryan Esq.
    How did their funding happen and when? prior county managers back in 1990′s? Roger Desjardin? Hamburg? Prior auditors never picked up on it? Norm Thabit where are you? The line items to county on tax bill fund alot of the county when we live in a city.
    Thank you Mayor Ryan for turning up the heat, and not being intimidated. Evan Lukic what is status of the audit or are you still doing BSO for Israel?
    and yes Lamarca is a one term wonder and probably rea;izes that, so the op-ed piece. Holness will take any ally he can get and ditto Lamarca. But shored up county coffers are probably empty as budget hearings will confirm and Lauderdale Lakes is committing hari kari.

  8. Cooper City has already rejected the MSTU.

    UPDATE: Weston voted unanimously last night to reject the MSTU.

    Plantation and Coral Springs may reject the MSTU. Others may follow.

    How does the County construct a regional model where one City doesn’t have to pay and others are out (and presumably would negotiate separately with BSO)? Maybe you can call it somewhat consolidated, but certainly not regional.

    Yet, because of the budgetary shell game (where the residents are charged by the County through the MSTU), and the fast approaching deadline of May 10, some cities may have no choice but to go along with the MSTU, even though

    * this is projected to be more costly;
    * there is no cap on the residents’ tax exposure through MSTU;
    * the projection for first year cap appears terribly inflated;
    * the County refuses to define what costs they are obligated to pay separately from the MSTU;
    * the County seeks to force “capital outlays” as part of the “operational expenses”;
    * there are no provisions prohibiting subsidies of the Port or Airport;
    * cities have no vote in the budget;
    * and the operational plan is still being worked out with many details left undefined.

    Some are saying this is a County “Cram Down”, where the County handicaps that some cities will just have no choice.

    As has been said “Unreasonable haste is the direct road to error”.

  9. Oh come on. Plantation and Coral Springs were never on board with you, Attoney Ryan. How can you have a countywide system to begin with when not every city agrees? Truth is you didn’t do your job in convincing all 31 cities to join. If the cities can’t agree and it’s supposedly for their benefit, whose to say it actually is?

  10. Whatever Mike Ryan my staffer say I am great. I hang around and pretend I am a gibbons grad so I am smart and stuff. Just because you have those fancy degrees and I obtained a few college credit hours doesnt mean jack. All I know is that you are not a Patriot, abortion supporting, Christ hating noo flag lapel pin wearing dork.

    Listent to Chippy, I love God, Country and Babies. I am fair and balanced. Is Mayor Ryan, no.

  11. My prediction, at least 25 cities either don’t agree to join, or just don’t even vote on the issue. Either way, an epic failure by the County.

    The 3 cities that have already rejected it are just under 300,000 in population. Over 15% of the county population so far. Oh I forgot Cooper City (#4) doesn’t need to join. Add another 30,000.

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