I was at the meeting and gave testimony. Also at the meeting were a large group of city activists and church leaders who are organizing a local chapter of PICO, a national network of faith-based community organzations.
Read about the meeting here: http://www.tcpalm.com/news/2011/sep/06/fort-pierce-gives-preliminary-ok-to-increased/
My name is Linda Hudson. I live on Frances Court in Fort Pierce.
For two years, your Citizens Budget Advisory Committee made recommendations for the City and the FPUA to reduce spending and NOT raise taxes or rates.
We did NOT recommend a millage rate increase.
We DID recommend reductions in personnel costs that would be fair to the employee and the taxpayer, save jobs and ensure that the employee retirement fund would be solvent in the future. The Committee recommended that you reduce costs in the following areas: legal, pension, insurance, sick pay, vacation pay, overtime, car allowances, technology and travel. We did NOT recommend cutting salaries or cutting jobs. We did NOT recommend reductions in services to your city residents.
You do not have a revenue problem; you have a spending problem. Raising taxes or rates is a short-term fix for the spending addiction, but it doesn’t break you of the spending habit.
If you raise taxes and rates, you increase the costs to the business community and the residents. Businesses are already struggling to stay alive. Property values will decrease even further if you raise taxes and rates. Not only will new business not come to Fort Pierce; the businesses that are here now will close their doors. What you should be doing is developing a way to help Fort Pierce businesses and citizens prosper, because their prosperity helps both the city and the utility.
Over many years, the ratepayers of your public utility have given you a lot of money. We ratepayers routinely subsidize the city by $5 million. Some ratepayers don’t even live in the city and they get to pay even more. With your proposals tonight, you’re telling your own utility that you want more money, money that has nothing to do with the cost of electricity, and money that came from ratepayers like me.
You’re also proposing a tax increase. You have racked up $95 million in debt and you must repay $5million every year. Over the years, while the debt increased, the city refused to make meaningful, long-term spending cuts. You engaged in several rounds of refinancing the debt, hoping the day would never come that you would have to pay it. Because of the increasing costs of debt and personnel, you have abandoned capital spending, money that should be going to keeping our city safe in the future.
Many people in Fort Pierce and St. Lucie County have lost faith in government and feel disconnected and at odds with those in power. Elected and employed public servants seem to be living in isolation from what is happening in the outside world. People outside the government inner circle are truly dumb-founded by your words and deeds.
Fort Pierce needs A New Beginning. Start fresh tonight by measuring every vote by this standard: Is this vote protecting our citizens and serving all the people in Fort Pierce? Put the private sector ahead of the public sector and by doing that, you will enhance your revenue streams. Do not raise taxes or increase utility rates, which will further depress the economic well-being of Fort Pierce. Find a new beginning for Fort Pierce tonight, by putting those who elected you back into your thoughts and deeds.