Over the weekend, the Daytona Beach News Journal ran a front page series of stories that focused on the homeless problem in Volusia County that has become a problem for Daytona Beach as well as other areas of the county. As usual, they are touting tax money to solve the problem, a predictable, leftist response. But they failed to recognize that more tax money thrown at the problem is not needed. Let us explain why.
We currently are the only county in Florida with three hospital taxing districts, left over from the 1940’s. In fact there are only ten left in all of Florida as those counties with some sense have abolished them. Given that the Affordable Care Act or ObanaCare was designed to bridge the gap of indigent care costs, the lack of need for such archaisms is clearer than ever. We believe between the three districts we may be talking about 50 million dollars or more, whatever the amount, we are sure those funds would more than take case of the homeless problem. So we suggest that these hospitals, owned by profit based mega-corporations, should run without taxpayer support and either fail or thrive on their own merits and community needs.
Secondly we add on 5 cents per gallon of gas to further support a county school system with an already insatiable appetite for more and more money, but delivers lower and lower learning effectiveness. This is a school system that funded a chauffeur (excuse us we think they called him a driver in the budget) for the overpaid Superintendent so she did not have to drive anywhere and five or six assistant principals at the New Smyrna Beach High School at one time. We wonder if the former superintendent got the idea of a chauffeur from watching the Madam Secretary show on TV. We also bet that fringe benefit did not show up on her W-2 (but then the ever efficient James Moore and Company auditors would never have raised that issue; they might lose a contract.) And while this was happening, the school system was scoring lower on the quality of education provided than other nearby counties, such as Seminole, where they get better overall score at lower cost per student than we do here in Volusia. So let’s divert the 5 cents a gallon to the homeless, where it might really do some good. We don’t know how much that is but is surely is millions of dollars. And maybe our school system might perk up and get with the program.
Thirdly, maybe some of the movers and shakers in Volusia County, instead of pouring money into the campaign chests of politicians (Deb Denys, Dorothy Hukill and others) in order to get their way with land deals, hotel development, and legislation dumping more of your tax dollars into their pockets, slide some of this over to the homeless problem. By movers and shakers we are talking about Lesa France Kennedy, Mori Hosseni, Hyatt Brown, the Dog Race Track owners, etc. In fact, even some of their “donations” to the city such as art museums could have been deferred in favor of helping the homeless. But the News Journal never mentioned any of that. Oh yes we should mention they are all advertisers and we know advertising money is important. This is probably over a 100 million dollars in money that has been thrown around, in most cases to get votes from politicians that favor their projects or deals. Let’s use that for the homeless.
In addition, there are the useless advertising authorities that blow money supporting beer drinking events and wine walks, with absolutely no determination of whether rooms and beds were actually filled as a result of the money spent. And we have no one on the County Council, especially not Deb Denys (who is only interested in funding those events that fill the pockets of the bar owners on Flagler, her contributors) who is willing to actually demand some level of analysis as to the effectiveness of the money spent. And the useless data spit out by Mid-Florida Marketing and Research is not the answer nor does it answer in any way, shape or form the question of did the money spent on an event actually put a head in a bed. We recall a prior event funded by the SVAA that put 6 heads in beds at a cost of $1000.00 a head in advertising. In fact, we could do away with all three of these dysfunctional authorities, use 50% of the money to work with the homeless issue, and spend the rest on a contract to a real advertising agency, with performance bonuses and penalties; we think we would actually get something for the money spent that way and help out with the homeless problem. In this case we are talking about around 15 million dollars that we have no idea if are actually impacting tourism.
To make things worse, neither the County Manager nor the County Council has taken any steps to better manage these authorities other than meddling with the volunteers that serve on the boards. Despite being provided with a comprehensive package on how to develop actual marketing plans that included evaluation of effectiveness, the Council, especially Deb Denys, has chosen to meddle for political reasons rather than ensuring that the tax money collected is actually used to increase tourism. A case in point is the Trails Program that has been funded without benefit of any cost benefit analysis or respect for the hard earned tax dollars spent. The poster child is the trail overpass on State Route 442 in Edgewater. Costing over a million dollars (maybe more but we could not find out how much), to essentially ensure that the bikers, runners, and hikers will not have to wait to cross the road, it is certainly the poster child to wasteful spending and confused priorities. The problem of crossing SR 442 could have been solved with a traffic light, a push button, and a cross walk to take care of small number of people who needed to cross the road. And that would have hardly impacted the light traffic patterns on that road, especially on weekends. Instead, because one Council member wanted it, we got it and the tax payer continued to suffer, including those who had their front yards seized by the County to further this trails hobby in other areas. That bridge would certainly have taken care of a lot of homeless people.
Finally, the excessive salaries paid to the County senior staff are a disgrace and should be reviewed for competiveness with other local business and government. To grant such pay increases while we have homeless people on our street is a disgrace that should not happen. Further, nowhere is the last several budgets have we seen anything close to real performance objectives for the senior staff or any county agency. What was there cannot be quantified nor evaluated as to success or failure. But we still give away money to all in the forms of pay raises when no government retirees or Social Security annuitants’ got a raise this year; a large segment of the county population.
We have highlighted numerous areas where we could get the money to deal with the homeless issue, but there is one more critical thing needed to further reign in the reckless spending by this county government and that is the creation of an Inspector General position and office within the county government. This office and position should be structured with the upmost independence, publish a yearly audit and inspection agenda, and produce objective evaluations of county agency performance and effectiveness of spending decisions. These IG offices are in place all over the country at the county level and many here in Florida and it is time for Volusia County to establish one before we waste any more money.
In conclusion we do not need more tax money; we just need to spend it more wisely. We look forward to our readers views.