Published On: Tue, Jun 26th, 2012

Fiscal Responsibility or Irresponsibility that is the question…..

By now everyone in town has seen the Boca Citizens for Fiscal Responsibility’s email attacking the City’s Fire and Police Pension Plans and arguing that that the City Council should immediately address the unfunded portions of these pensions before it is too late….

This communication begs the questions of….

Why now?  Why the sudden urgency?  Why this group?

The situation that is being complained of actually dates back at least two decades perhaps three.  Firefighters work 42 hours a week, including weekends.  This formula was imposed by the city council some 30 years ago and the benefits being complained of were negotiated over many years by former city council members who are no longer in the public eye. 

 In the 2012 election cycle, one of the charges leveled against Councilman Majhess was that he was a shill for the unions and that he is responsible for the unfunded pension issues now being highlighted by this group.  That assertion was and is simply untrue.

Of today’s elected body, only the Mayor and Deputy Mayor have been on council long enough to be held, at least, partially responsible for this economic boondoggle.   The others ought not be held to answer for the errant ways of past councils.  In fact, within the last few years, this council has seen the unions voluntarily agree to reopen contracts resulting in give backs in excess of 1.7 million dollars. 

Hence, one can argue that there is already a movement for fiscal responsibility by the unions themselves rather than by this shallow effort to demonize the city’s unions as the villain….

Why the urgency?

Could it be to cover up other areas of fiscal irresponsibility? 

On May 2, at the city’s goal setting session, both founders of Boca Citizens for Fiscal Responsibility spoke sternly against the City Manager’s suggestion that the “city could save up to $5 million a year if it turned over its two libraries to the Palm Beach County library system.”  Both spoke in favor of reducing firefighter pensions claiming they are rising at an unsustainable rate and are the real “elephant in the room.” 

Perhaps that is so.  Perhaps there is good argument that these contracts are ‘rich’ and need to be modified.  But these obligations are contractual and not negotiable at this time, a fact that could not have been overlooked.

Finally, why this group?

One should never attack the messenger because of the message but, this group’s founders are far from fiscally responsible.  They are also the founders of Friends of the Library and in 2003 pushed the referendum to build a new downtown library.  That library just broke ground last week and is estimated to cost in the neighborhood of 12 million dollars with an annual operating budget of 2.5 million.  Certainly not a fiscally responsible action in these times and considering that there is a brand new library on Spanish River Blvd, a mere 4.0 miles away.

So one can argue that the Boca Citizens for Fiscal Responsibility are anything but….it is fiscally irresponsible to point fingers towards one set of financial challenges while diverting attention away from the set of financial challenges that your pet project creates. 

Of course, politics’ can always be seen as rearing its ugly head! 

Point the blame for the City’s pension boondoggle where it belongs.  Place it with past councilpersons and with the two current council members still holding onto their seats of power.  Those elected officials that agreed to these ‘rich’ pension benefits and who gladly accepted the unions’ backing in the next election cycle to retain the power and notoriety of elected office.

Should negotiations work to right these perceived excesses?  Of course they should….. 

Do we need the 12 million dollar library and the 2.5 million in additional annual overheads?  I think not….

Do we need to hold onto the Wildflower site and tie up 7 million dollars that could be better utilized to provide services like reopening parks and recreational facilities?  Of course we don’t….

Do we need to be placed in a situation where some people win while others lose? 

I think not…..but then, I don’t have a vote….

 Al Zucaro

About the Author

Displaying No Comments
Have Your Say
  1. Jay says:

    Excellent article!

  2. PATTY DERVISHI says:

    Al, you are one of the best assets boca raton has. Keep up the great work you do.

  3. Bruce Martin says:

    Sell the wildflower property for 7 million dollars, let the county run the libraries and save 5 million dollars per year, and leave the firefighters and police alone.

  4. Tom says:

    Thanks Al for putting so eloquently what we were all thinking.

Leave a comment

XHTML: You can use these html tags: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>