February 23th, 2009
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1. We are constantly amused by the postings on the BLOG from flacks for the “Grifter’s  Club”, also known as the Angler’s Yacht Club. The fact that they sit on what is the most valuable marine property in town, have paid no taxes until the Shadow complained,. and no rent is defended as appropriate by the guys with the $100,000 + yachts. The reason they need more money to run the City is that grifters like these folks “need” the subsidy from the taxpayers who can not pay the rent or utility bill. The Shadow thinks of it as looting the public treasury by the richest folks in town who also just happen to discriminate patently against every minority in town. The Shadow is curious as to whether this bunch of grifters is aware that the New Smyrna Yacht Club just to the South may have an African American Commodore in a year or two.

2. Sally, come clean. We know you do not like us and have said that you will not produce a copy of your diploma because it would give the Shadow too much pleasure. Aw, just give it to the Journal or the Hometown something or other. They will not gloat.  Do it at the Commission meeting tomorrow  night .  Then you can deny that you wrote any campaign letters to the Angler’s club that if elected you would assure them that their lease would not be disturbed.
“Best Blogs of the Week”
(Edited for grammar and punctuation)
A POTPOURRI OF CITIZEN COMMENTS IS
AGAIN PROVIDED THIS WEEK IN ORDER
FOR YOU TO GET IN TUNE WITH THE
MOOD OF OUR READERS

1.There were a number of blogs from knowledgeable readers on employee pensions. #528, 529, 535, 539, 540.

2. A reader sent us this article from the New York Post
BLOATED BENEFITS COST CITY 106G PER WORKER
By DAVID SEIFMAN City Hall Bureau Chief
The city's municipal workers earned an average of $69,124 last year - but the cost to taxpayers reached an eye-popping $106,743 because of skyrocketing fringe-benefit expenses, according to a report released yesterday. The study, by the Citizens Budget Commission, found that city employees' salaries jumped 33 percent from fiscal 2000 to fiscal 2008, a period when the regional consumer price index went up 29 percent. But fringe benefits - fueled by a 700 percent increase in the city's pension bills - were off the charts, soaring from $13,356 to $37,619 during the same time period. And those were just the averages. Firefighters, whose contracts call for built-in overtime and 20-year retirements, "cost" an average of $186,464 each. Cops, with similarly generous benefits, came in at $164,045. Teachers and other instructional personnel averaged $98,505. The remaining civilian workers brought up the rear at $83,279. The watchdog group placed some of the blame on Mayor Bloomberg, saying the pay raises he negotiated "have been generous in both historical and comparative terms." The CBC added, "The latest settlements awarded civilian and uniformed unions at least 4 percent annual wage increases, well above projected inflation, with no concessions." Carol Kellerman, the group's executive director, said the findings provide hard evidence that the city "can't continue to think the same way of our relationship with public-sector employees as we did before." Mayoral spokesman Mark LaVorgna pointed out that the city is prohibited by state law from negotiating pension benefits, which is the chief driver of the escalating payroll. "The mayor has been seeking pension reform for years, and we are finally seeing some movement, with Governor Paterson taking the lead and proposing the new pension tier the mayor has been asking for," LaVorgna said. "Also, since 2000, there have been at least 46 pension sweeteners that have been passed in Albany that have increased our pension obligations. That doesn't even count the bills that were vetoed by the governor at the city's insistence." The mayor is scheduled to release his grim preliminary budget for fiscal 2010 in two weeks, and it is expected to include layoffs at some agencies. The CBC report landed on the same day that the Independent Budget Office warned that the city faced astronomical budget gaps of $4.3 billion and $7 billion in fiscal 2010 and 2011. Analysts said the $7 billion deficit estimate represented 15.9 percent of city-funded revenues. Both figures were the highest since the IBO began keeping records in 1990. In November, the mayor had put the gaps at $1.3 billion and $5 billion. "The data keep getting worse," said one official. Tax-revenue estimates in virtually every category were down, with $34.7 billion expected to come in this year, down 7.5 percent, or $2.8 billion, from 2008. david.seifman@nypost.com

To sign up for Daily Newsletter Alerts, please visit LINK

3. The following BLOG seems to repeat a portion of an article printed in the Deland Beacon newspaper and added on a review of New Smyrna Beach activities in renting ice machines and printers. Both aspects we think are worth reprinting.

Frank
In contrast, this is what we should spend our Stimulus Funds on: Projects that in the future, will result in SAVINGS in City Operating expenses.

Read this article that was in the Beacon, LINK

It seems Port Orange wants to use its stimulus money to put solar panels on its City buildings. This will SAVE them a ton of money on their power bills for years, which they can then use somewhere else if they want to. In contrast, look at what Randy wants; Another Pet Project, that will cost us additional Operating Dollars forever!

And where do you think his going to get all that money to operate that Fish Farm?
You got it; The Taxpayers!

At the very least, they should use that stimulus money to repave our roads, repair our sidewalks, sewers, water pipes, storm drainage, and replace things that we need to get replaced!

Example: Everybody else in the world has figured-out, that if you replace your old AC Unit, with a new highly efficient one, you'll save enough to pay for it in 3-4 years just from the reduced power costs alone. To say nothing about the repair bills....

But the City doesn't do that! It spends a fortune repairing the old inefficient AC units, year after year... because the City doesn't give a dam what their AC units cost to run, as long they run! Because after all, the Taxpayers are paying the power bill! And the repair bill too!

And this same thing goes all thru the City, in every department; For Example: We Rent Copy machines and Ice Machines, we don't buy them!

Of course, the rental fees costs us more than what we could buy them for, and pay somebody to fix if they break!

FYI:

The Police Department is spending $3200/yr to "rent" a copy machine.

The Building and Maintenance Department is "renting" an Ice Maker for $1440 a yr.

The Sports Complex is "renting" an Ice Maker for $2600 a yr.

The City Attorney's Office is "renting" a Copy Machine at $5600 a yr.

The Finance Department is "renting" a Copy Machine at $3400 a yr.

The Recreation Department is "renting" a Copy Machine at $3200 a yr.

Under "General Government, the City has noted it's renting a copy machine for $6300.

The Building Department is "renting" a Copy Machine at $3200 a yr.

ADD IT ALL UP; $32,140 in Rental Fees for Copy Machines and Ice Makers every year.....

And at the end of the year, we don't own anything.....so we start all over the next year.
NOTES

1. Not having the New Smyrna Beach W-2s for 2008, which they have refused to forward to us in the same form as last year claiming this year they do not exist, we are republishing our fire department’s top pay winners for 2007. The City has it in electronic form, because that is what they sent last year, and could send it easily when they decide to comply with the law. These numbers are under stated because they gave pay raises—remember!

Last year’s posting:

“FIREMAN  W-2 AWARD WINNER FOR 2007,-- $100, 784,

published Feb 4,2008

First Place.  Battalion Chief David Coats was paid $100,784 (dollars) last year which cost the City of New Smyrna Beach we think an additional $70,000 of costs and benefits.   We  say we think because we do not think he is a part of the union and whether the cost to the City is the same as the union contract of 70% over salary.  If it is, he cost the City about $171,000 in 2007.(His salary in 2001 was $43,000). He clearly passed Cindy Richenberg munificent $89,459  salary for 2007  and about $63,000 in benefits.

Second Place.  Lieutenant William Kevin  As we said we do not know whether Battalion Chiefs are also members of  the Union, but the Lieutenants  are union members and each of them did quite well for themselves. Second place in the W-2 award  for overpaid fireman for 2007 goes to Lieutenant William Kevin whose take was a mere $88,587 (fire lieutenant, EMT), plus that 70% benefits package which is a total of $149,000 cost to the City. (His salary in 2001 was $40,085)

Hey Randy, the City attorney salary level starts to look real cheap compared to what the fire department personnel are “raking in”. After dinner, could you mention this to Cindy?  Please talk about the reasonableness of the fire department contract at the next Commission meeting.”

Oh by the way, the County E-mailed the County fire department W-2s two days after we requested them. LINK

2.  Look at the LINK below for the agreement between the City of Vallejo and its employee union of City workers (CAMP). The Police Union had already settled and the two unions that have not settled are the IAFF and IBEUW. The terms are significant and are in the LINK
DEAR SALLY

There is no more Dear John. He was fired. His day in court was supposed to be tomorrow night when he presented his plan on the goals they set. The thought that now that they publically gave him the authority to come up with a plan so unhinged them, assuming you could further unhinge already unhinged space agents, that they fired him two weeks early. ( See Under the Bus below.) So,  no more “Dear John”.

The Shadow needs help:

John is gone. What to do? What to do? Well we could start a letter from Randy to Sally, but he is not able to put enough words together to make up a letter. Then we were thinking of Jim Hathaway writing the letter. He is literate and certainly smart. But then he voted for all of those pay increases for employees after talking against paying them. True too about the budgets  which did not cut spending. So where do we go from here. We thought maybe the new Finance Director or the competent Personnel Director. It might not be fair to them, however, since neither have an exit contract if the crazy ones want to fire them without cause like they did Hagood. Last we could use County Councilman Hayman who seems to want to intervene in City affairs at the drop of the hat. Please help and write the Shadow with your pick.

In the breach, Police Cjief  Pagano sent us the following “Dear Sally “ letter:

DEAR Sally

To: Mayor Sally Mackay

From: Police Chief Pagano

Dear Mayor,

We at the police department appreciate your not letting that screw-up City Manager Hagood from presenting a plan tomorrow night  to reduce the number of police department personnel and limit our pay, pensions, and benefits. The three Commanders are particularly grateful and thank you for getting rid of him before he could cause more harm.

We do have a bone to pick with you however. Why did you let Hagood  hire a CPA for the City finance director? You cannot count the number of times some of our guys had to dump on the last one because she insisted on us following the rules, and we do not care to have more fights in the future just because some pissy-ant bean counter has integrity and cares about her licenses.

Any way we understand that getting rid of her is cheap compared to the $400,000 that  you were willing to spend to get rid of Hagood.

Your confidant,

The Police Chief
Quai Assisi Richenberg Pork Farm, good location and neighborhood, next to $2,000,000 classy homes  (look at 411 Quay Assisi advertisement on Google). Has ecotourism attraction of offices for Marine Police.
Two weeks ago we published an article and letter concerning the Utilities Commission failure to even discuss the proposal by Federal/Rural City and Commission (FRCAC) to build a fully funded $300,000,000 (yes, $300 million) co-generating, salt water desalination, and waste disposal plant in New Smyrna Beach. It would lower electric rates by half.  A discussion of this proposal at the City Commission it seems got lost in the diversion of firing the City Manager. It is reproduced in the LINK. It is disturbing to hear that the Utilities Commission is now discussing a different plan using stimulus money when they never discussed the FRACA plan offered them in2005.  At this point it smells, particularly since they apparently discussed building a bio-mass unfunded generator a couple of weeks ago.  Hopefully a public discussion will now take placeomn the FRCAC Maybe an investigation by the FDLE should also take place.
“That is about what you pay each month on your car.”
Why Under The Bus Two Weeks Before His Report On Employee Pay, Pensions and Benefits And
Public Evaluations

The Shadow believes that the reason the three dysfunctional New Smyrna Beach Commissioners threw John Hagood, the City Manager, under the bus two weeks before his evaluation was to be done, was that they needed a huge diversion from the mess they have made and will not fix.  It did not bother them to spend $400,000 of your money to start their election campaign. Remember, avoid the issue and distract the taxpayers---that is the name of the game. Their game, your money. But then, readers have suggested that there might have been other more pressing reasons, several of which the Commissioners did not want to discuss.  Maybe so scandalous that they needed to immediately protect the City’s “Charm” and maybe a couple to save their hides from having proposals before them and not being able to blame others for their own failures to act. Here are a few that have been suggested.

  1. It was suspected that John was the guy in the men’s room on the North Causeway playing footsies with the guy in the next stall!

  2. There was a complete plan ready to be submitted for a vote that totally reformed the pay, pension and benefits package for the fire department personnel with a determination to bring costs below the bankruptcy level!

    3. One of the Commissioners was sure that John and his wife was at a “Swinger Party”  and while it is OK for Commissioners to attend such affairs it is not acceptable for  employees!

     4. There was a complete plan ready to be submitted for a vote that totally reformed the pay, pension and benefits package for the police department personnel with a determination to bring costs below the bankruptcy level!

     5. He included a request that he be permitted to ask the Volusia County Council to “bid” on the cost of unification or providing services for fire and police to the City of New Smyrna Beach!

      6. They just wanted to spend $400,000 of taxpayer money to prove they could do it and not pay a price!

Now we know these explanations are not complete. Nor can we be sure that we will get the answer right. Please help. Post or write the Shadow.
Cutting spending by $4 or $5 million

In the April 7,2008 edition of the Shadow we stated that it was budget time and that $4 to $5 million dollars of savings could be easily accomplished if the City Commissioners were so inclined. Except for the tax increase of the Angler’s Club, which was accomplished by the Shadow questioning the County Tax Appraiser, not one of these tax cuts or increased revenue plans have been put in place. Their failure is a disgrace. We are in a depression and they continue to ply their friends with money at the expense of the taxpayers. Last month they gave the police department Union a pay increase during a depression because it had been budget last fall during a recession. Read the earlier article and judge for yourself how little they have done to help the taxpayers. Oh, we forgot they did stop buying high test gas after Channel 9 ran a story.

Article from April 7, 2008

“It is budget time. We laughed when we heard the auditor commend the City Commission for doing such a great job in managing its money without even referring to the use of reserve money to make it come out in the black. But what do you expect from a firm that has done the audit for ten years and has a good idea of what it needs to say to keep the account. But then we are cynics.

We said it before and we will say it again. The New Smyrna Beach City Commission should put the following items on the Agenda for their first meeting in April, and have each Commissioner and the Mayor state and explain their position on each issue. The Shadow believes they owe the taxpayers an explanation for why they will not take action to resolve these pressing issues and reforms as an indication of how they propose to reduce spending in the coming fiscal year. We invite the other area newspapers to investigate each of these issues, publish reports of their factual findings, and utilize their editorial skills to analyze and comment as they see fit. It would be refreshing to observe real journalists in action for a change. Come on guys, the Anglers Club would be any easy task for an investigative reporter!

Lost Revenue

$80,000 to $100,000 tax loss because the County Tax Assessor is unwilling to assess Angler’s club leased property properly, and the City will not challenge him.

$25,000-$50,000 tax loss because the City will not pursue setting aside the Angler’s Club $25 a year lease for a fair market value lease.

$520,000 unnecessary annual expenditure because City will not eliminate three hours guaranteed overtime for firefighters that costs $10,000 week.

$500,000 loss for not getting bids from professional management companies to manage Municipal Golf Course.

5. $1-2 million savings by abolishing all fire department lieutenant positions.

6. $500,000 to $750,000 savings by abolishing three police department Commander positions.

7. $300,000 by consolidating tri-city RCC  operation with County 911 center.

8.  $87,000 subsidy for  Marine Discovery Center.

9.  $72,000 by buying regular gas.

If all savings are realized, the City could reduce its budget by as much as $4,500,000 or so real dollars. We, of course, cannot picture these politicians taking such extreme measures to accommodate the wishes of their constituents over their special interest supporters, but we can hope for the best.

But if they do not, you will get a chance soon in all probability to vote on a Constitutional Amendment or two that will make them obey. Making them fiscally responsible will not hamstring government as they will argue from the bottom of their heart.  It will make them  think of you  when they spend your money.”