WP Needs a Financial Advisory Board
Open Letter to Mayor & CommissionersEditor's Note: Articles written by citizens reflect their own opinions and not the views of the Winter Park Voice.
Guest Columnist Jim Fitch / July 14, 2020
The City of Winter Park has a budget of $170 million. This breaks down to a General Fund of $59 million, $33 million for Water & Sewer and $44 million for the Electric company. The budget document is 401 pages.
Discussions have begun for the FY2021 City Budget, and the annual marathon of Commission workshops to review it is on the schedule.
I believe the City might consider another, perhaps saner, approach to the Budget. That would be to create a Financial Advisory Board (FAB) to review the budget, department by department, and to do it closely, constantly, steadily over the period of a year.
Each Department has a broad category called Operating Expenses, encompassing everything that department does. Take one example. On Page 264 of this year’s budget, we find Street Sweeping. That department has one employee who is paid $77,011. Their operating expenses total $273,670. The annual budget for the department is $350,681.
The document indicates that streets are planned to be swept every two weeks. My street, Via Genoa, is lucky to get swept once a quarter. Most street sweeping is done by individual home gardeners.
So, there is one well-paid operator and one piece of equipment. An FAB might be able to delve into the details of what actually is included in that $350,681.
The City Manager of Haines City, FL instituted an FAB some years ago. The FAB consisted of five people — a banker, an educator, a housing administrator, a retiree and a civil engineer. Over the course of the year, the FAB met during the week with each department. The meetings were held in the early evening. They were publicly posted, open and informative – and they rarely lasted past 8:00 pm. The FAB spent 125 hours reviewing the $40 million budget. The five Haines City Commissioners spent less than 10 hours reviewing the budget, but they had the advantage of the knowledge and the advice of the FAB.
The Haines City FAB made several recommendations to the Commission about such things as the annual millage rate, adoption of a Fire Service fee, purchase of a $700,000 fire truck and other capital equipment and the reorganization of the Water, Sewer, Parks & Recreation departments. The Haines City Commission adopted all of the FAB recommendations. The Commissioners felt the FAB provided a valuable service to the City.
With the size of the Winter Park City Budget – not to mention the size of the budget for a single project, the Winter Park Library-Events Center – we, the taxpayers, would be well served with a Financial Advisory Board.
I believe the City Manager wants to hire yet another outside consultant to audit the Library-Events Center Project. It’s only Taxpayer’s Money. . . .
(No, I am not available to serve on such a Board.)