Palm Beach County Administrator Bob Weisman and I don’t agree about much of anything when it comes to county government. While Bob is a fine fellow personally, let’s explore how much the county administrator is a friend to local taxpayers.
In the insulated world of county government, the Administrator’s office has waged a quiet war for years against county taxpayers. Their drumbeat is always more money from beleaguered taxgivers; their mantra is “The people demand more services.”
For county government, the sky is always falling whenever talk turns to reducing government spending. Somehow, Bob’s tax train always ends at the same station at the end of the line: either the millage “must” be raised or the tax collections “must” be raised. The only thing that slows the Weisman locomotive is when a severe recession devastates the tax base. Even then, tax rates continue to get jacked up.
The proof of county government’s excesses and disregard for taxpayers is that, in 8 years, the county budget grew 3 times the rate of inflation and 10 times the rate of population growth. That’s inexcusable.
Well, Mr. and Mrs. Citizen, if you want to stop this tyranny, now is the time to start because Bob’s 2011 tax train has already pulled out of the station.
County government fires up the tax locomotive very early each year, usually in January. County departments meet and plan, start drafting budgets, and call for money requests and new-hire wish-lists from all departments. This is done quietly, often without the input of elected officials, and without attracting attention to the process.
By spring, the tax train has picked up speed and momentum. Preliminary plans and budgets are set, often including more benefits for staff. The bureaucrats make sure they are taken care of financially in the blossoming budget process.
By summer, the tax train is a juggernaut, roaring down the track, hard to stop. At some point in this process, the electeds start to be briefed on budget “needs”. The staff makes sure the electeds conclude that government will implode if staff recommendations are not followed and budgets are not granted.
Most of this planning process, and staff budget decisions, take place well before public input is sought. By the time the public is notified, or seeks to take action, the train is long-gone from the station. Public input is usually ignored anyway. The only real chance for changes late in the process is for a stiff-spined county commission to require changes. Those electeds who try to reduce the budget become villains in the eyes of government employees and those supping at the public trough.
The county administrator is both smart and honorable, but he wants to preserve his fiefdom and protect his employees. Can’t blame him for protecting his people, but let’s all be sure we understand the political facts: county government doesn’t care much about the predicament of the taxpayer. Government disagrees that the families and workers of this county know better how to spend the money they pay in taxes than government does.
We need tax relief. Few local groups publicly criticize the overall level of taxes in the county. How about you? Here’s your chance. You can step forward to demand lower spending. Say “ENOUGH” to your county commissioner. If you want to help, start your efforts now, because Bob’s train is chugging out of sight.