commented on Contact Volusia Republican Party
2020-09-08 16:39:56 -0400
The Buck “Starts” in Small Towns
Why It Is Important to be Involved in Municipal Government Budget Decisions and Why The Slogan “Defunding the Police” Might Not Mean What You Think It Does
Some very important elections are coming up all across the country that I don’t hear many folks in my county of Volusia, Florida discussing.
They are the multiple mayoral elections set to be held in many of our smaller “council-manager” governed towns within a few short weeks.
It’s not so much which candidates win that concerns me, (you will understand why if you read my whole position paper), as it is what kind of Budgets We the People are going to allow the various local governments to pass.
I’ve been a Florida resident for thirty years, and a Volusia county property owner for one.
We have a local email in my new Council-Manager town, population 64,842. It is a combination Neighborhood Watch/Angie’s List. We ask for help finding missing pets, recommend where the best deals on goods and services are, and warn each other of dangerous pests, of the reptilian, insect and human kind.
The other day, a warning was posted on that email about “strange people” testing car and truck doors, in one of our 23 neighborhoods, as dusk approached. The presumption was the “strange people” were hoping to find one of the vehicles unlocked. Naturally, the police were called.
I don’t often comment, but this time I typed off: “Can you imagine trying to control crime like this with a defunded police department?”
My comment, which was not intended to be partisan, stirred up remarks: “You need to look into the meaning of Defunding the Police. I don’t think it’s what you think it is.”
I believe I do have a good handle on what it would mean to do it right.
That’s why I am taking the time to write this position paper, because I don’t believe enough folks do understand the magnitude of the effort, or the criticality of the timing.
Most Volusia towns will be holding “Final Budget Hearings” on September 17th.
When I wrote that short 14-word comment, in my neighborhood email, I was thinking of several things.
I was thinking how we, as U.S. citizens, have grown to expect rapid police response when untoward situations arise in even the smallest of neighborhoods, like mine.
I was thinking about what it means to be a first responder in September 2020.
They are dealing with a worldwide pandemic; multiple hurricanes; an unnamed Iowa/Midwest derecho; wild fires torching thousands of acres of property; and violent, destructive, deadly rioting by mobs fomented and financed by criminal culprits unknown. Headline from a recent article in the Washington Post: “Covid-19 has killed more police officers this year, than all other causes combined, data shows.”
Thinking about our first responders makes me think about my family. I think about them a lot, especially now.
Dad was one of thirteen, mom one of eleven. Most of the men in my family, if they didn’t remain carpenters or stone masons, became firemen or policemen after they returned from WW-2.
The women were no slackers, either. Aunt Teddy was a WAC, (Women’s Army Corps), photographer, mom was an Air Force Cadet nurse. Aunt Teddy took some very descriptive black and white pictures of WW-2, back in the day.
As members of the Greatest Generation, my elders only thought was about keeping our country safe. No one got paid anywhere near enough for their sacrifices. Everyone instinctively knew they could not win the War without each other.
When you observe the dedication and school of hard knocks knowledge that my family of first responders displayed each and everyday, you grow to respect that. When I hear the words Defund the Police, I wonder whether enough people understand how precious having a dedicated law enforcement presence is in our lives.
If you believe in the concept of good and evil, you know there are bad apples in every barrel. Time to make it a universal goal to keep the barrels clean enough from the start so stuff doesn’t get rotten, instead of just talking about it.
When a rotten apple does turn up, (we’ve witnessed some putrid examples lately), it is our legal system, not unknown dangerous vigilantes, that need to enforce the law swiftly and equally.
“Equal Justice Under the Law,” is clearly engraved for all to see above our U.S. Supreme Court Building. It is up to everyone of us to ensure that tenet of the Fourteenth Amendment is upheld firmly but peacefully.
I’m going to get into statistics and facts shortly, but first I want to voice a few personal opinions first, since this is my position paper.
In my opinion, there are more good and noble folks in our Law Enforcement system then there are bad. Also, in my opinion, we need those good folks now more than ever because we are in another War.
This War is more complicated, because it’s being waged stealthily. Look at what’s happening in our precious neighborhoods in Chicago, New York, Portland, Seattle, et al.
We can’t let CHOP zones contaminate the safety our ancestors fought so hard for! We can’t allow the businesses we have struggled to build to be smashed to pieces by thugs. That is not who We the People are! We are seekers and defenders of freedom. Three of my grandparents, made the 4,639 Nautical miles to get to Ellis Island, to find it.
When I hear the words “Defund the Police” and I don’t hear any Town Budget debates going on at the same time, I fear not enough folks understand how our American Budget system works. I don’t remember being taught a lot about it myself until graduate school.
Even if we remember everything we were taught in history and economics, it isn’t bad to have a little refresher course. We all need to understand how and where our taxpayer money is going, in order to have a vote on how best to distribute that funding fairly and economically.
If we honestly believe in our hearts that we are all in this together, and we want to win this subtle but extremely dangerous War, now is the time to become involved and stay involved in Municipal Government Budget Decisions.
Before discussing the American Budget system, a short Constitutional Refresher is in order.
The United States Constitution has three main functions:
• The first function is to create a national government consisting of a legislative, an executive, and a judicial branch, with a system of checks and balances among the three branches.
• The second function is to divide power between the federal government and the states.
• The third function is “to protect various individual liberties of American citizens.”
The Tenth Amendment to the Constitution grants “all powers not given to the federal government be given back to The People by way of state and local government.”
State government’s are considered to be the legislative, executive, and judicial authority over a defined geographic territory.
Most local governments divide their jurisdictions into two levels including county and municipal governments. The size and culture of the community play factors in labeling the local government by various names such as cities, towns, villages, or boroughs.
One of the most common forms of local government in the United States is the mayor–council government system.
There are two basic forms of mayor-council system, the weak-mayor system, and the strong-mayor form of mayor–council government.
In the strong-mayor form of government, the elected mayor is given almost total administrative authority and a clear, wide range of political independence, with the power to appoint and dismiss department heads without council approval and little or no public input.
In some strong-mayor governments, the mayor will appoint a chief administrative officer who will supervise department heads, prepare the budget, and coordinate with those departments. This officer is sometimes called a City Manager; the city manager in the strong-mayor variant is responsible only to the mayor.
City manager and mayor, in the strong form of mayor-government, are two of the most prestigious positions in local government. City managers, sometimes known as city administrators, are generally appointed by mayors or councils based on their education and experience in local government.
Mayors Bill de Blasio, (NY = 302.6 Sq Mi) ; Eric Garcetti, (Los Angeles = 503 Sq. Mi.) and Lori Lightfoot, (Chicago = 234 Sq. Mi.), preside over strong-mayor forms of government.
Because New York, LA, Chicago are huge, densely populated cities, they have high media visibility. Whenever anything important happens in strong-mayor cities, it is reported widely, almost instantaneously.
In the weak-mayor system, the mayor has no formal authority outside the council; the mayor cannot directly appoint or remove officials, and lacks veto power over council votes. As such, the mayor’s influence is solely based on personality in order to accomplish desired goals.
In Volusia County, where I live, we not only have both strong and weak forms of local government, we also have variants.
There are sixteen different municipalities, each with their own Budgets, their own Mayors and the responsibility for Funding their own individual local Police Departments.
Unlike the larger cities, (New York, LA, Chicago), where I am willing to bet that a majority of U.S. residents have heard of those mayors, I am equally willing to bet that most U.S. residents have never heard of Mayor Heidi Herzberg, for example.
Heidi Herzberg is the mayor of Deltona, Florida, population 92,000. With an area of 40.81 Sq. Mi., Deltona is the largest city in Volusia County, Florida.
Even though Mayor Herzberg is not up for re-election until 2022, the FY21 Town Budget still requires review and “Final” approval by the residents who live there.
In 2019/20 the town of Deltona’s Budget was $166,042,475. $166 million dollars is not insignificant. I was not able to find the Proposed FY’21 Budget on-line. My guess is it would not be any less significant.
In May, the West Volusia Beacon reported that “Deltona city officials locked the doors of City Hall and refused admission to people waiting outside who wanted to attend the May 18 City Commission meeting.”
From my research, I understand there were valid corona virus concerns about assembling too closely in too small of a space.
Also from my research, I learned the city officials were looking to use some of the Cares Act funding to invest in new technology that would allow them to conduct Town Meetings virtually.
If I lived in Deltona, I would want to see a comparison of actuals to budget to review right now before FY’21 is set in stone.
Since most of the municipalities in Volusia have announced that FY’21 Final Budget – “virtual” Town meetings will be held around September 17th, if I lived in Deltona, I would want to verify that they are now set-up to accommodate virtual meetings.
Returning to the subject of Funding and Defunding, it is important to realize that one piece of a puzzle is not going to solve that puzzle or provide the total picture of anything.
If “We the People are” going to tackle something like Defunding the Police, we need to treat it as a “real project” understanding that each sequence of events has the possibility and most likely will impact the sequence of events that follow.
If you’ve ever taken a statistics class, you remember the term “Critical Path.” It’s a method where every network node needs to be evaluated for its accuracy and effect on the next activity.
Critical Path means starting with the smallest of building blocks, evaluating and securing them, before laying the next larger brick right down on top of them.
When it comes to our American Budget System, the first building blocks are the smallest of our towns.
American Budget System Refresher:
To “Defund” something first you have to “Fund” it.
What does the word “Fund” mean? One definition is “to provide with money for a particular purpose.”
Let’s say the particular purpose is to Fund the Police. Where does the money to Fund them come from? It comes from the “Budgets” passed by every one of our cities, towns, or boroughs, even the very smallest, each government “fiscal” year.
Government “fiscal” year = The fiscal year is the accounting period for the federal government which begins on October 1 and ends on September 30. The fiscal year is designated by the calendar year in which it ends; for example, fiscal year 2020 began on October 1, 2019 and ends on September 30, 2020.
Congress passes Appropriations legislation to Fund the government for every fiscal year.
Cities, Towns, Villages and Boroughs pass Budgets to fund their governments for every fiscal year. Budgets and Appropriations processes go hand in hand.
What is a “Budget”? A Budget is an estimation of Revenue and Expenses over a specified future period of time and is usually compiled and re-evaluated on a periodic basis.” (i.e. fiscally)
There are three types of Budget, “balanced budget, surplus budget and deficit budget. A government budget is said to be a balanced budget if estimated government Expenditures are equal to expected government Receipts in a particular financial year.”
The budgets I reference in this position paper are all “Balanced Budgets.” That means each entity determines how much Revenue they need and where they plan to get it from. Then they develop a Budget where Expenses match Revenue, or vice versa.
What are the sources of Revenue for Local governments?
United States Local governments collected $1.7 trillion of general revenue in 2017. Revenue from property, sales, and other taxes totaled $707 billion, or 42 percent of general revenue. Intergovernmental transfers accounted for another 36 percent.
Of the $707 billion collected by Local governments in the form of taxes in 2017, $509 or 30 percent of Local government General Revenue came from property “aka ad-valorem” taxes. This was their largest single source of tax revenue.
As taxpayers, WE are the ones funding multiple Municipal town departments and projects, including protection provided by our local Law Enforcement professionals.
To prove, “the Buck starts in Small Towns”, a simple example follows. Let’s assume there are three small towns contiguous to each other. We will call them RB-1, 2 and 3.
Let us also assume that each of these three towns has their own Town Hall, their own Mayor, their own Fiscal Budget, as well as these particular demographics.
Sq. Miles Land Water Population 2020/2019 FY’20 Town Budget
RB-1 1.31 .36 .95 1,427 $ 1,921,971
RB-2 1.00 .30 .70 1,417 $ 945,837
RB-3 1.20 .40 .80 2,121 $ 2,576,642
Totals 3.51 1.06 2.45 4,965 $ 5,444,450
RB-1 is a Council-Strong Mayor form of government. RB-2 and RB-3 are Council-Weak Mayor forms of government.
Looking at the table in total, we can see that all three town’s comprise an area of 3.51 square miles, of which thirty percent or 1.06 square miles is land.
Combined, the three FY’20 “Balanced” Town Budgets total $5,444,450.
We can make several other statistically true statements from those facts:
The Budget per square mile, ($5,444,450/3.51) is $1,551,125.
The Budget per square mile of land, ($5,444,450/1.06) is $5,136,274.
Reviewing what we know from the information provided, it would not be out of the question to wonder whether there might be an “economy of scale” savings if three town halls and three separate council-mayor governments were combined into one.
It would also be normal to wonder why anyone would need $5.1 million dollars to manage one square mile of elevated land.
Because Every Town, in Every State was born with its own unique qualities, due diligence suggests that we should dig deeper before we make any final conclusions about the validity of RB-1,2 and 3’s combined FY’20 budget.
“Counties were established to make basic government services more readily available throughout the state. Cities or municipalities are “incorporated” within counties because the people living there want a more “local” provision of public services.”
“Municipalities generally take responsibility for parks and recreation services, police and fire departments, housing services, emergency medical services, municipal courts, transportation services (including public transportation), and public works (streets, sewers, snow removal, signage, and so forth).”
All three, of our example towns are primarily residential waterfront communities.
Sandwiched between the Gulf of Mexico on the west and the Intracoastal waterway on the east, the Town of RB-1 alone, boasts: “4 town parks; 5 public beach accesses, a causeway for relaxing and fishing; and a community recreation area with basketball courts and a large children’s playground.”
Between the three towns collectively, there are 26 lodging providers and a myriad of small businesses.
This is an area of fresh fish restaurants, popular quaint local gift shops and boutiques, bait and tackle and bike-kayak rental shops, to name a few. There is a Seabird Sanctuary, a long pier that stretches 1,021 feet into the Gulf of Mexico, and multiple lovely parks and beach accesses that need to be patrolled, including during the Marine Turtle nesting and hatching seasons.
Reviewing the three combined Town Budgets using a more refined lense, $5.1 million does seem reasonable to cover the municipal responsibilities associated with the needs of 5,000 permanent residents; 26 lodging providers, numerous small businesses, as well as the safety and maintenance of parks and beaches. Public Works and the Stormwater System departments get their fair share of activity during a heavy rain. Imagine the financial impacts that tropical storms and hurricanes can and have had on these Towns.
In the case of RB-1, $884,206 of their FY’20 Budget Revenue was anticipated to come from ad valorem (property) taxes. Another approximately 22% of the revenues, or $414K, was forecasted to come from sales & use and franchise & utility service taxes.
As with all of the Budgets being referenced, FY20 fiscal allocations went into effect on Oct 1 2019, before the corona virus pandemic struck the world.
The hit on “snow bird” Revenue has had to have had a negative impact on all three town Revenues. If I were still a resident there, I’d be very worried about shortfalls right now.
If I were a small business owner, I wouldn’t have a fingernail left to chew off.
On the subject of Defunding the Police, all three of these smallest of towns contract with either the County Sheriff’s office or a neighboring larger town for round the clock police protection. They also contract with other towns for Fire/EMS coverage.
Therefore, their Budgets, especially as relates to First Responder funding, are overlapped and intertwined with other County/City/Town Operating Budgets.
It is no different across America.
Because we are all in this together, every one of us, in every one of our towns should care about making sure our taxpayer money is used wisely.
Instead of allowing violent criminals to continue smashing in our small business shop windows, terrorizing our neighborhoods, burning down Wendy’s franchises, now is the time to become involved in Municipal Government Budget Decisions!
Every account in a City, Town or Borough’s Budget should be open for review and peaceful debate so that short falls and long falls can be evaluated for redistribution.
The problem I have experienced, however, is that Town meetings are not well attended, topics are not widely distributed and debated in advance of the monthly sessions, and most budget decisions have already been agreed upon before the council convenes.
Getting back to why I responded to neighborhood car-jacking concerns by saying: “Can you imagine trying to control crime like this with a defunded police department?”
Local Municipalities are “generally” responsible for police and fire departments and emergency medical services, et al.
Local Municipality Budgets are intertwined with: the Federal Budget; the State Budget; the County Budget and even neighboring Town Budgets.
You can’t defund one without defunding another and if you are not going to handle the subject as a real, detailed, “measureable” Project, without disrupting current services during the due diligence phase, how are you going to try to control crime in the process?
Our “tops down” quick review of 3 Small-Town Budgets, totaling $5 million dollars, required some digging.
Imagine analyzing a Budget of close to $1 Billion, in detail? To re-distribute funds equitably, that is what you would have to do.
Volusia County, population 566,254, is a Council/Manager form of government. They had an approved FY’20 Budget comprised of $809M in Operating Revenues and $170M in Non-Operating Revenues, Total $979M.
In their FY’21 Budget they are asking for $805M in Operating Revenues and $176M in Non-Operating Revenues, Total $981M. ($19M shy of $1Billion).
Volusia County has also posted the following notice: “On March 27, 2020, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act was passed by Congress and Volusia County received Coronavirus Relief funds directly from the United States Department of the Treasury of $96.5 million. These funds can only be used to reimburse unbudgeted costs that are directly incurred due to the Coronavirus within the timeline of March 1, 2020 through December 30, 2020. The expenditures cannot be part of our current budget.”
Volusia County, in their own words, “is akin to a large company; it consists of more than 40 different sectors and interfaces with 16 different municipalities located within the county.
“County services include public safety, social services, culture and recreation, planning, zoning, environmental management, mosquito control, public works, utilities, and solid waste. Many county services – such as the beaches, parks, and libraries – are open to all residents.
“A smaller number of services are provided to residents who live outside of cities in the unincorporated areas.
“Some municipalities contract for services from the county, most notably for law enforcement services from the Volusia County Sheriff’s Office. Some county functions cover service areas, such as Mosquito Control Districts. Other county services involve operations that cross boundaries, such as transportation planning and transit (e.g., SunRail, Votran). ”
Volusia County is divided into three regions, West Volusia, East Volusia and South East Volusia.
The other day, I asked a good friend, who has lived in the area several years longer than I have, if she knew that. She said, no.
I asked her if she knew what the largest town was. She guessed, “Daytona Beach?” As we now know, that is incorrect. The largest town in Volusia County is Deltona.
Some of our Municipalities are holding mayoral elections in November. Most are not.
All of them, however will be seeking to have their individual FY’21 Town Budgets finalized around September 17th.
Here is a list.
West Volusia – also called Saint John’s River Country (named for the Saint John’s River which lies nearby), this region includes the cities of:
Barberville, Unincorporated community
Debary, Karen Chasez
Deland, Robert F. Apgar
Deleon Springs, is a CDP = Census Designated Place. In 2000 there were 2,500+ people living there.
Deltona, Heidi Herzberg
Lake Helen, Daisy Raisler*
Orange City, Gary A. Blair
Pierson, (considered a town and not a city), Vacant ? If the position is vacant, the next election should be 2020
and Seville; as well as the surrounding unincorporated areas close to these cities. Deltona is the largest city in Volusia County.
East Volusia – also known as the Greater Daytona Beach Area, or the Halifax Area (named for the Halifax River which runs through the area), this region includes the cities of:
Daytona Beach, Derrick L. Henry
Daytona Beach Shores, Nancy Miller
Holly Hill, Chris Via*
Ormond Beach, Bill Partington*
Ponce Inlet, Gary Smith*
Port Orange, Don O. Burnette
South Daytona; and surrounding unincorporated areas, William C. Hall
Southeast Volusia – also known as the Greater New Smyrna Beach Area, this region includes the cities of
New Smyrna Beach, Russ Owen*
Edgewater, Mike Thomas
“Defunding the Police”, might not be as easy a process as you thought it was but that does not mean it is not doable. It means it is hard.
The Buck Starts in the Smallest of Towns. When things are not “Balanced” at the lowest level, the snowball effect begins. We could all, me included, do a lot more good for our country by getting involved in Municipal Government Budget Decisions.” We are in a War. We can’t win, unless we bring our school of hard knocks talents together and dig in.
Senior member of the FIICC
[Fixed Income, Immune Compromised Citizenry]