Tax collector spends faster than she can collect

AnneGannon2012At a time when Palm Beach County is saddled with a significant budget shortfall, the Tax Collector’s Office is spending taxpayer money like she’s on a Disney vacation.

On Oct. 10, which was Columbus Day of last year, Tax Collector Anne Gannon set up an employee training seminar at the Palm Beach County Convention Center. The highlight was a 90-minute program calledDisney’s Approach to Quality Service, presented by the Disney Institute for an $11,300 fee.

That fee did not include food, beverage, venue and audio/visual equipment rental. Gannon rented a ballroom and two meeting rooms for $4,710. Catering costs added up to another $6,000, bringing the county’s bill to more than $22,000 for the one-day event.

When asked to comment, Gannon sent this emailed reply:

“The employees did not attend a Disney seminar at the Convention Center. Our office conducts an In-Service Training day on Columbus Day — a holiday for the other Palm Beach County employees. One of the training burningmoneysessions was ‘Optimizing Disney Magic: Disney’s Approach to Quality Service’ – the others were conflict resolution and specialized knowledge workshops.”

However, when reached by phone for a follow-up, Gannon confirmed that approximately 285 employees, all from her office, attended the event, and that it was, in fact, held at the Palm Beach County Convention Center.

I have to question what possible benefit civil servants working in a county tax collector’s office would gain from “Disney’s Approach to Quality Service.” The taxpaying public can hardly take its business elsewhere if her office delivers poor service. Hers is the only game in town. I would think that a simple instruction that her employees smile and be patient with the public could produce much the same results – and for $22,000 less.

In the grand scheme of things, I’d be the first to admit that the amount Gannon’s office spent on the seminar is but a drop in the ocean of the county’s $15 million budget shortfall. It’s going to take a long, arduous journey to bring us from deficit to surplus. And each journey, as the saying goes, begins with a single step. I just wish Gannon had the courage, wisdom and vision to put her foot in the game.

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