Tuesday, September 13, 2011

It's All Garbage - Where did the Money Go?

Comment Up

The question of the day--Why did we spend 15 million dollars over the past several years that were not budgeted in order to deplete our Reserves?

Tonight the City Commission will vote to increase the Solid Waste assessment. They will listen to us all but will not waiver. You can take that to the bank. Staff wants it. Staff gets it. Their minds have been made up for weeks. Public meetings are a farce of the first order.

Everything in the world is going up it seems in the City of Lake Worth including our blood pressure. I asked Joe Kroll about Solid Waste. He has given reasons for the increase (special assessment) that is going up 17% charged to every resident in this City:

"We have had increases in fuel, maintenance and dump fees over the past three years and we were absorbing them. With fuel continuing to rise and all oil by-products we can no longer absorb these costs and continue to operate," says Joe.

Everyone is being assessed $42 dollars more a year for garbage pick-up.

According to a source, a few years ago the City Manager was given a wake-up reminder: Slowly convert all fleet vehicles to diesel and lock the price in. Once fuel goes back up, it will stay there. Remember, Southwest Airlines has maintained a positive cash flow throughout the hard times by using this strategy. Potential savings could be as much as $400K/year for your fleet and that is if gas prices only go up $2 from your contract price.

Tipping fees at Solid Waste

According to SWA:
2008/09: $35 a ton
2009/10: $40 a ton
2010/11: $42 a ton
2011/12: $42 a ton

The construction debris charge per ton went down a year ago from $45 a ton to $40 and will remain the same for this Budget cycle.

Why then, is the City of Lake Worth taxing residents 17% more when Solid Waste's dumping fees are staying constant? When I asked Solid Waste, I was told that I needed to ask the City of Lake Worth. They had no clue. Kroll says it is to make up for the past 3 years when fees went up at SWA as well as gasoline prices that they did not charge us. Does anyone believe that they were collecting garbage at a loss for 2 or 3 years? Of course not. It is just another way to grab the cash or someone in charge of that department was behind the eight ball.

Ed Fry now says that we burned through $15 million over the past 4 years blaming it on the 2008/09 budget before Stanton got here (blame it on the other guy syndrome) --up $3 million from when the city manager gave the figure just a few weeks ago. More than likely it was the waste of $6 to $10 million and who knows how many more millions in the Utility upgrade that William Coakley spoke about in his recent article and the City is scurrying around to make up those millions lost.

If you look at the Chart on page 65 of the Budget you will see that reserves were depleted over the last 3 years. Where did they learn this trick? Take our money from savings and spend it. Where did it go? The new Budget calls for $25,923,439 in capital spending for the upcoming year. If you back out the casino and beach-redevelopment in this figure, you are left with $14,953,480 that the City plans on spending this year--$15 MILLION on capital improvements. Why are not many of these being deferred? Are we not broke? We continue to spend and tax.

Solid Waste Service Assessments shall constitute a lien upon the Assessed Property so assessed equal in rank and dignity with the liens of all state, county, district or municipal taxes and other non-ad valorem assessments. Except as otherwise provided by law, such lien shall be superior in dignity to all other liens, titles and claims, until paid.

Ed Fry, head of OMB, responded:
Subject: RE: Solid Waste

"Palm Beach County Solid Waste Authority (SWA) increased the tipping fee 20% from $35 to $42 per ton this year. Note: SWA says it only went up $2 TWO YEARS AGO AND NOW WILL REMAIN THE SAME.

We do not track the exact tonnage and charges from the County. We do have records on the amounts paid to the County each month. For the current year-to-date, the City has paid SWA $318,881. For the previous year, the City paid the SWA $202,869. As to gas, oil and lubricants, the current year-to-date costs are $168,432. The previous year is $156,756. I do not know how much was spent on tires since the accounting records do not itemize the cost of tires."

The door is wide open for exploitation here when the City says it does not track the exact tonnage. You have no idea what's on that truck when it gets to the County? Can you tell the taxpayers for sure that other people's garbage is not on that truck? Is it possible that we are hauling debris for a developer, a handyman or another resident other than his residential garbage on our city truck? Do our trucks stay in the City or do they go elsewhere? Are people placing other things other than garbage in their dumpsters and we end up paying a higher rate?

It seems to me that we should have less tipping charges because we are recycling more. Joe Kroll told us last year that fees would be reduced the more that we recycled. We all complied even to the point of washing out tin cans before placing them in the bins. We certainly do not have more residents and we do NOT have more garbage. According to the last Census, our population fell. So are we collecting less garbage or more? Also, we have no real sense of accuracy as far as gas and maintenance costs although gas has gone up a $1 a gal. Is this some manufactured figure? Do we even have a figure on what we spend on filling up the gas tanks of our garbage trucks?

Put the public at ease and answer some basic questions.
  • Close the open door to what appears to be possible exploitation. You need to know what is on your truck when it reaches the County to get weighed.
  • You need to know how many trips you take to the County and the weight of each truck. How many times do our garbage trucks dump throughout the year?
  • You should be weighing each invoice from the County against your records.
  • You must have records regarding fuel fill-ups, etc. You have to know what it costs to fill up a garbage truck and how many times you do it and the cost.
  • What else are you charging for under this assessment? The possibilities are endless now and into the future.
  • Why can't we ever see a Budget with line items and year comparisons. We want to know how much money we are taking in and the true costs of expenses, not padded costs.
You have to have this information and these answers before you can tax more. No one heard any plausible explanation. We received the standard reply: costs have gone up. Joe Kroll and Ed Fry said that SWA is charging us more for tipping fees when in fact SWA says that they are not.


Anonymous said...

I would really attack the CM if she did not lock in 'long term' gasoline rates and begin the transition to diesel. As with any CEO that is what she is in the position to do, i.e. forward think

Anonymous said...

There's always a lot of blame put on past comissions and c.m.'s for the state of the city and some of it justified, but this is within the past 4 years. Who exactly is to blame for spending the reserve money and what exactly did they use it for? The commision approves all spending right? So that means Golden and Mulvehill are partly responsible. Cara was part of it too so that makes her puppet Mcoy her scapegoat. Clemens was and still is useless so who cares about him.
It's incomprehensible for them to fight to keep the city "affordable" and for the poor and then turn around and crush the "poor" residents with taxes and votes to keep increasing utility rates. They have no idea what their irresponsible actions will result in. No comprehension of the negative impact they have on the city.
The cabal had their chance and they showed what they are capable of.
Time for a new majority on the dais with some new ideas and the conviction to fire Stanton.

Anonymous said...

Palm Beach Gardens and Wellington are NOT raising taxes. Greenacres is GIVING their employees 2% raises.
Something is SERIOUSLY wrong in Lake Worth. As the city continues to raise taxes and fees while property values continue to fall more and more people are going to move leaving the city in an endless downward spiral.