A New Perspective 9-23-04: Taxes and Growth Management

Golden Gate Gazette

September 23, 2004

It’s our tax money and we ought to be concerned. This year’s tentative Golden Gate Fire & Rescue District has budget plans for a 17 percent increase in wages, salaries and benefits. The funding will only add one inspector position.
They also budgeted less for uniforms and zero for new vehicle purchases, so do you suppose we’re going to get one really good, high priced, but naked and walking inspector?
Probably not, instead, you can be sure some hefty salary increases are coming down the pike. When you budget a 17 percent increase for salaries, how much of it will the Fire Union expect to receive?
The answer is all of it. Last year’s total compensation budget was $3,516,084. This year’s budgeted amount is $4,126,924. The total general fund budget is $5 less than $5.67 million.
Some archaic government agencies reduce tax rates when they have more money than they need.
Our fire commissioners awarded our department some healthy well-deserved raises over the past few years to bring salaries up to the same levels as the East Naples and North Naples districts. Some of our salaries exceeded those of the Marco District.
Our Fire Department is very well run, highly trained, has all of the best toys, and its employees are paid extremely well compared to most departments. It wasn’t always that way. Hopefully, we won’t get to the point of ridiculousness. Our district is an excellent place to work and build a career.
When budgets get this big, taxpayers become apprehensive after seeing what large amounts of money have done to other departments. North Naples is an example of too much money, poor bookkeeping and corruption. Reducing taxes would have done wonderful things for that department.
Here in Golden Gate, while our operating budget rises dramatically, capital expenditures, such as buildings, will be going down as impact fee revenues slow. Growth is slowing, which makes the overall budget appear less than last year. The debt load from all of the new additions built over the past couple years is getting less and that makes the overall expenditures less. Debt service cost $140,000 less at the current level of $6.6 million.
Golden Gate Redevelopment
We have held quite a few public meetings to figure out the best way to meet the community’s future needs. There was a pretty clear sense of direction from the property owners and community members on a direction for Golden Gate Parkway. The committee is working to put those ideas together for a public presentation to make sure everyone is still on the same page. After that, the plans will be put into official motion.
Unlike the Parkway, the community meetings on Collier Boulevard didn’t come up with a clear direction. The committee will put some plans together based on what they heard, but it may require a professional to provide guidance.
If we don’t make the plans, someone else will come in and tell us how they are going to do it.