The sixth of a series on Ft. Lauderdale campaigns and issues:

"Meet the New Mayor"

Fort Lauderdale's new Mayor, John P. "Jack" Seiler, will discuss
the City's budget and other challenges facing the new Commission

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

7:30 am: Coffee & Networking
7:45-8:45 am: Presentation/Discussion

FAU/BCC Higher Education Complex, 111 E. Las Olas, Room 1110 

Wednesday, April 22, 2009
George M. Mihaiu, GMStrategic –

Seiler quickly proving he's a pro and a needed leader

Just back from attending the Fort Lauderdale Forum at FAU this morning and listening to new Fort Lauderdale Mayor Jack Seiler discuss the state of the city and the budget. Before I get into specifics of what he said, I have to say that my overriding observation after this is that he's a pro among mostly amateurs and wannabes and is proving that he means what he's said and says at every stage of the game. As he gets into the budget and has to begin addessing the tougher issues, his popularity may eventually take a bit of a hit as some of the 'vested interests' take a necessary hit from the budget axe that WILL be wielded. But from what we've all seen so far, his sole focus is getting this city into the kind of financial shape that can do the things needed to position Fort Lauderdale for needed progress in the coming years...and he's following through on making the tough calls that requires.

Here are some snippets from his talk today:

- City has partnered with the Greater Fort Lauderdale Chamber to survey businesses to see what they think is needed here, what kinds of businesses and economic opportunities can and should be pursued. Will cover much more ground toward determining needs and opportunities than hiring another economic development staffer, with benefits and salaries and limited time capabilities to try to do the same thing.

- City and County Commissions getting together for a 'Summit' on May 19th to discuss all aspects of their mutual interests, including the airport, seaport, new beach hotel project...and other common interests such as the Courthouse, Downtown Development and the 'Wave' project, CRS, etc.

- 2009 Current Budget Overview: '09 budget already down 4%-5% below projections for revenues and will go lower. Interest income down, Property Tax revenues down, Licenses/Permits down, Fines down, Tourism down (though not as much as the rest of Florida)...only thing going up is Yacht & Docking fees which speaks for the importance of our local marine industry.

-2010 Budget Outlook: Property tax revenues will continue to drop and expected to reach 2006 levels/values. Looking at overall Property values in the city in the area of $31 billion in 2008 expected to drop to area of $26-$27 billion in 2010...and that's a huge hit to property tax revenues. Only areas still holding value are industrial properties and 'banks' (noted probably has something to do with bailout monies being thrown their way).

Also pointed out that the State of Florida recognized and began planning for budget shortfalls when it became evidend in 2006 and has cut 10%-12% of budget in the years since then...but City didn't recognize it in their budget at all and, in fact, GREW the budget 10%-12% in the same period in the face of this economic slump...and that's a big part of today's budget crisis.

- reiterated that Property Appraiser Lori Parrish not only sees a 10%-12% drop in property values in 2010, but warned Commission of a further 15% or so drop expected in 2011...which means we've got a long way to go and hard choices to make before this budget crisis is anywhere near being resolved.

- noted that our Public Safety (Police & Fire) is 59% of the budget and need for Public Safety as an absolutely necessary component for the success of economic development and tourism efforts...when already looking at a shortage of almost 90 officers...makes it a tough place to find funds to cut budget.

Looking outward to ways we'll be looking at to meet the budget challenges include:

- more public/private partnerships to generate more revenue positive items;

- greater cooperation with the County and elimination of duplicate agencies, programs, services, etc.;

- increasing revenues from downtown economic development...have to increase the density and business there, yet keep buffer between downtown and nearby neigbhorhoods so as to make downtown and Riverwalk as much of a tourist, visitor and business destination as the beach is;

- address wages and salaries in some cases as they implement 'Zero-based budgeting' and reevaluate every aspect of city needs for services, staffing and facilities; understanding that some things are contractual and as inherited from prior city administration, can't be changed.

- targeting the City Centennial in 2011 to be the date the budgets have been resolved and planned 3-5 years out, something that the City hasn't been doing in recent years;

- looking for a positive, mutually beneficial working relationship with the Police and Fire unions as those talks come up this fall with the background of the economic situation clearly understood by all;

These are just a few of the items Mayor Seiler addressed in much more detail in his talk and in elaborated upon in his answers to a number of questions from the crowd in attendance. There's much to be done...and there's no sugar-coating it or passing the buck by our new Mayor or new Commissioners...they're tackling these issues head-on as they should. So I urge YOU to get involved, give them your feedback on these issues and be a part of the solution instead of just griping about the problems!

Posted by George Q. Public at 10:21 AM

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