Continued city budget cuts don’t please all

Article Highlights

  • Employee training, community events at highest risk for cuts
  • Are Council members hearing the majority voice about city spending?
  • City Manager Steve Thompson compared the financial process with that of renovating a house while the house is on fire.

— City finances and budgeting continue to heat up. City Manager Steve Thompson compared the city financial process with that of renovating a house while it’s on fire. Council’s attempts to slash the budget may be politically correct, but are a disservice to the Island’s residents who want to enjoy their city, says Marco resident Steve Stefanides.

Despite changes in the Marco City Council meeting schedule, decisions and options for cutting about $440,000 from the 2010 budget continue, Thompson reported.

Stefanides, who goes by Stef, said everyone would go for lower taxes, but he thinks most Islanders have showed they trust their city government to run efficiently.

At the first scheduled budget meeting, what people cared most about, what they had to say was, “let the music play.”

Just before the budget discussions, chambers were packed with people to hear council’s decision to allow weekly live music events at the Esplanade.

“Once they knew their quality of life wasn’t impacted, they left.”

It’s always the same few people at every meeting, Stefanides added.

“Beating up the city has become a blood sport for a small percentage of our people.”

There were several residents at the second budget meeting, including members of the Marco Island Taxpayers’ Association board, former councilman John Arceri, as well as residents Joe Granda, Larry Magel and others, who pushed for council to take a closer look at the budget to bring faith that Council was doing their due diligence.

Stefanides maintains that the people who weren’t there were also making a statement.

Councilman Ted Forcht said it was challenging to make expensive decisions without more detailed financial reports. While he notoriously disapproves of most city spending, he doesn’t see Marco as an overgrown government, and, therefor, he finds cuts less necessary than in other nearby cities.

“We just didn’t have the assistants and the assistants to the assistants that other cities had. Most people in City Hall already have at least two jobs.”

Thompson continues to try to meet the direction of reducing spending as if council had adopted a millage rate of 1.6 mils, rather than the 1.6518 millage rate, or about $1.65 per $1,000 of property value, approved earlier.

That means cutting about $440,000 of expenses. The money is to be put into reserves for another year of anticipated property value declines.

“It’s a rush to do something politically correct rather than what meets the need of the people,” Stefanides said.

Councilman Bill Trotter and Thompson have discussed the cuts and Trotter was to provide a report to Council Nov. 2.

However, with that meeting canceled, City Clerk Laura Litzan said a full budget review is now scheduled Dec. 7.

A meeting is also scheduled 9 a.m., Nov. 9, followed by a special-called workshop at 1:30 p.m. between council and the Utilities Advisory Committee. The full agenda for Nov. 9 has not yet been finalized.

Trotter had requested comparisons of line items that increased from 2009 to 2010, among other detailed budget information that he and Thompson agreed would be available in most cities and organizations. However, the information was not readily available, Thompson reported.

“Let me first say that I share Dr. Trotter’s frustration with the management information available with the budget.”

Thompson plans to present financial information in a more usable format by Dec. 7.

“While the staff has many strengths, we continue to improve the accounting system, reporting format, and accuracy of information. The budget process and the other issues that we have faced over the past year have not, however, allowed us the luxury of pausing to create the information,” Thompson wrote in his Weekly Update Friday.

Thompson compared the financial process with renovating a burning house.

“We are trying to put out the fires, and at the same time renovate and improve the financial system as time allows. We are making progress, but again I share your frustration and I support the need for the information that Dr. Trotter has sought.”

In terms of budget cuts since the last Council meeting, so far, the city has frozen community grants.

Stefanides, as chairman of Christmas Island Style, which puts on at least one month of seasonal festivities each year, said no money is used for the parade or other events, but they do need police and fire service support.

The overtime incurred by police and other city services may cost about $3,000, he said

“If we start to lose all the fun things we enjoy as adults and as children, we start to lose what Marco Island is all about ... We all came to Marco Island to live, not to die.”

Thompson said that as directed by Council, he also made it a priority to cut education and training expenses for personnel.

“This is counter-productive to maintaining life and safety,” Stefanides said.

He added that any organization can increase efficiencies and he suggested looking at the employee cafeteria plan to see if it is in-line with what other cities offer.

Overall though, he said, the look for cuts is like “some sort of financial witch hunt” to “placate the few people who will never be happy with their city.”

Thompson said specific projects may also be eliminated.

“We’ll go from a really great city to a mediocre city,” Stefanides warns.

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Comments » 17

happy6 writes:

hey stef...are you s----- or what>..exactly where do you live on the island that "most islanders trust the city government"...you gotta' be kidding....tell thompson to stop buying f-250 trucks and polaris 4 wheelers complete with ak-47 gun racks...and why do we need ak-47 gun racks on a 4 wheeler and in the police cars...and let's not forget the new shotgun racks in the crown victorias...it's also interesting to see 3 police cars with lights flashing everyday at the school crossing...how in the world did poor ms. popoff get by all those years without radar, motorcycles cops and cruisers....simple...they ain't got nothing better to do...we don't need anymore cars,trucks, 4 wheelers, boats, jetskis, motorcycles.....next it will be mounted police and we'll have horses grazing under marco man.

Skipilotz writes:

Shadow,

The Shadow, a collection of 1930’s radio dramas, follows the exploits of a fictional vigilante named ...The Shadow. I guess your name is fitting, as you seem to see yourself as some sort of vigilante and most of your posts involve fiction. The following are all the excerpts from your last post, that are factually (not “kind of, not sort of, wholly) inaccurate: 4 wheelers complete with ak-47 gun racks... ak-47 gun racks on a 4 wheeler and in the police cars... new shotgun racks in the crown victorias….3 police cars with lights flashing everyday at the school… ms. popoff get by all those years without radar, motorcycles cops and cruisers.

You either know you wrote inaccurate information which makes you a liar or you didn’t know what you where talking about and are trying to get an emotional response which makes you uniformed and…. well I’ll stay out of the gutter and leave what else that may or may not make you to the imagination of others.

Posting, using just the name shadow (hint hint) since August 2006, you amassed 800 entries. Wow. Most of your posts, grammatically incorrect, wandering and trite, make your message clear - you hate the City. It’s a free country, and you are entitled to your opinion. When you state your opinion, you should base it on fact. It will then mean something. Just because you say it does not mean it is fact. You castigate the cops because they are around the school, but then you say they have nothing better to do. If my little kid gets run over you will be the first one to berate them for not being there, because they have nothing better to do. I don’t know a parent that is unhappy they are in the area in the morning and afternoon. This is a valued service they provide the community, so I ask you what would be a better use of their time at 7am? You are off-base and out of touch, again.

Idiot, fool, s----- and bozo seem to be some of your favorite words. In nearly all your posts, your message (I hate the City) is diluted with immature name calling. It would seem that your goal in life is to post messages in the style of a keyboard tough-guy. I am sure your real goal is loftier: get rid of the evil city. I am sad to disappoint you, but like “Stef” says most people are happy with the City. Trying to make everyone happy is impossible and a fool’s errand. People move to Marco Island, in addition to the great weather, beaches, golf, boats, schools, etc…for the high level the City services. For example people like the parks, parades, the safe atmosphere, and they like the police believe it or not. Check the MICA statistics for the last decade. Islanders have a very high expectation of service delivery and I think we are getting a tremendous value in comparison to the past.

Skipilotz writes:

I almost forgot…No “Stef” is not s-----. That is not the only potential difference between you and him. One major difference is he has the intestinal fortitude to state his opinion in the sunshine, with a name and face attached, unlike you. When he speaks at council meetings, he does so with passion, but professionalism. He does not always beat the same drum. He does not always agree with every City procedure or rule. He considers the facts (do you see the re-occurring theme) and makes a decision without resorting to name-calling or hiding in the “Shadowy” and “bold” world of anonymous blogs. That gives him credibility, honor and the ability to walk down the street with respect. Your postings, because they are insult based erroneous opinions, have no credibility.

Stef has served this community and others with distinction for decades. It is my belief that Stef has done more for the community in one week than you have done in your lifetime. Stef is in touch with civic organizations, volunteer groups, schools, parents, residents, business owners, and so on. He is a much better barometer than you, of what the majority of the community, other than the 9 people who post on here using multiple screen names, or the 6 chronic complainers who filibuster at each council meeting.

Grandma always said never identify a problem without suggesting a solution. So in honor of Granny, here is my challenge for SHADOW. Change your name (and style) to the mature open-minded fact-teller, or better yet show up at Council meeting like an adult, state your name, and voice your grievances. Time waits for no man, are you really going to waste what little time you have left hiding in the basement eagerly awaiting a new city park bench to complain about……anonymously?

u2cane writes:

Show up for a meeting? At 9 am or 1:30 pm??? Are you kidding me, some of us residents work, how the heck are we supposed to do that? Marco isn't just retired people. I've never said I didn't trust anyone in particular, but I would like to know exactly why we need all the toys for the police department (yes they do have some stuff they don't need, maybe not what shadow writes, but they do have unnecessary equipment, I mean we do still have the Sheriff's office here and don't need to have everything) and I would like to make sure that our money is spent wisely. I do agree with granny, you are much better off offering a solution when you criticize. So here it is, STOP BUYING STUFF THE CITY DOESN'T NEED! Now, was that so hard? I do agree you don't want to be a chronic complainer also, but I would like to see our government start using some common sense (this is not just Marco, but our state and federal). I would think most people on the island are looking for some balance to what we need and what we want. I also think most people are looking for equality among all residents of our city and everyone paying and doing their fair share, especially with this Condo sewer base rate thing.

JohninMarco writes:

I do not know who ski pilot thinks he is fooling, ask any city employee and they will all tell you the same thing. If we don't cut the work force now a little, next year will be a mess. As for the police, please justify our sending 12 MILLION to the county for police services in addition to what we are spending here. What residents should see is a lack of leadership from the council to demand better police services from the county than spending million more for additional police. This show that the council did not do their job.

happy6 writes:

nice post skipilotz...sorry to have stirred you up so much...but it is true...we have the f-250...go by and take a look at it. we have the polaris...go by and take a look at it...i did...and also go by the welding shop that's installing the racks...and to my point re. the police at the school crossing...yes i think it's a bit much for 3 units to be sitting there...and my point was ms. popoff did and admirable job for many years...and an ocassional cruiser was there...but not 2 units/ 1 motorcycle and one unmarked up the raod shooting radar...so..i am not a liar...my point is that this city is out of control with spending...if you don't like the way i write or post...sorry...i don't like the way you do either. re steff...yes he's done alot..my point was to his comment about "most islanders trust the gov't"...now even you have to admit that's a s----- comment....but i guess you trust the new admisistration in washington as well.

Skipilotz writes:

Shadow,
I am not stirred up by you, instead by your inaccurate statements designed to inflame people who assume you are correct. It is like being mad at an infant for throwing up on you, the baby isn’t the problem the barf is… I have seen and heard enough and decided to correct you. Same tactic used by the mini-club that attends the council meetings. Often they make baseless statements, and more often than not, people who have no frame of reference believe them too. This tactic is called disinformation and very popular in the former USSR. You have tempered your exaggerations somewhat in your recent post, but your opinions are still couched in mistruths. Now the F-250 trucks are A truck, singular emphasized. Not a fleet as you implied. Your inaccurate comment about an AK-47’s being placed on a “4 wheeler and in police cars is not accurate and obviously intended to frighten others. You may have seen a Polaris but you are imagining gun racks. How about this, prove me wrong, go take a picture of a AK-47, ray gun or any gun rack on it and post it. You can’t there isn’t one. Speaking of things that aren’t there too, there are no AK-47 racks in vehicles and the welding shop isn’t installing anything. These are facts. Are you suggesting that since police have never shot anyone they don’t need any guns, only small ones, or just squirt guns because we are on an island? Your past post indicated “it's also interesting to see 3 police cars with lights flashing everyday at the school crossing”. You now admit it doesn’t happen every day, and you soften the numbers and locations. I suspect that it if it happens once, you would consider it too much. What in heaven’s name is wrong with the cops using their lights or radar in a school zone? Obviously, they are trying to slow down motorists and save a kid from being killed. Where and what else should they be doing? Lisa did a yeoman’s job for decades, but if you didn’t ever see more than one cop car there when she was there, or them stopping cars for speeding, you were not paying attention. You seem to be an expert on running governments, specializing in road departments, water distribution and even police work, as you can quickly identify all their perceived faux pas. Where did you get your expertise in running a government? Heck - I used to watch St. Elsewhere, I had the flu last year, I have been to the emergency room a half-dozen times, I have even played volleyball against a doctor, but none of that makes me a nurse let alone a doctor or malpractice lawyer. Anticipating the standard “I owned a dairy queen or managed a bowling alley response”. I will grant you there are some common business practices that cross the private industry and government sector lines, but the organizations and their ways of doing things are not universally identical. You criticize but you offer no solutions.

Skipilotz writes:

How you post doesn’t matter to me, actually I find your Chicken Little slapdash style amusing. It matters to you though, or should, if you want people to consider your opinion to be worthwhile. We agree on Stef’s community contributions, now we are getting somewhere. But you either failed to get, or chose to ignore the point. Stef stands in a public meeting and competently makes his points. You anonymously snipe from the comfort of your home, refusing to take responsibility for you past reactionary and erroneous tirades. We are on opposite sides again now, as I disagree with your opinion held by most of the island. If most of the island felt that way, they would be raising the roof at City Hall and Council meetings. Email, phone calls to councilors would be effective, as would letters to the editor in the local papers. Heck, why don't you call a reporter and ask them interview you if you have some answers not just complaints? MITA alleges hundreds of members, but where is their massive bemoaning congregate at meetings? You expect me to believe that after a decade or so, MITA can only rally a paltry percent of their members to any meeting: sewer; budget and other meetings where the inference is that the world will soon end? Their lack of presence is for the same 2 reasons only a handful of people ever write letters to the editor. Imaginary people can’t write or drive. More people have shown up to meetings about boats than taxes: FACT. Most of the people on the island are content and or happy. There are few maybe even a thousand who are not. Not a majority. As a second example highlighting the difference between a majority and minority: the last election. After a dozen or so rabble-rousers implied they had the masses supporting their campaigns they were defeated. Why: Imaginary people can’t vote either. Incidentally, while the few MITA members attend council meetings share the mic with Stef and make their point in a public way, they share your perchance for disinformation. Before one of the sixteen of them has a stroke let me cite a recent example. A MITA member stood up in a recent meeting stating because Sanibel has no police, Marco should not. No logic to support their argument, no facts presented, just nonsense. Sanibel has had their own police since 1986. JohninMarco, pay attention, you will see this topic again. Back to what you claim is your point: out of control city spending. Believe it or not I partially agree with you. I question many of the financial choices made by city leaders. I question construction project timing. I question other things too; the difference is I speak councilors and city people in-person. I tell them exactly what I like and what I don’t like. I have to ask: what do you really expect to happen by posting 800 or so anonymous, unfounded blogs? The way I see it you are wasting sundowns. While I have set the record straight, I may be in danger of missing one too.

happy6 writes:

you are a freakin crazy! and by the way...i've never seen you post here before...where you been?
and i have not posted 800 blogs...maybe 200...i never checked. you seem to partially agree with everyone...and i never said nor implied there was a "fleet" of trucks...just the one i saw. and i will be happy to meet you at the shop where the stuff is sitting...send me a personal email through this site and let me know when you want to meet me. this is a free site and i can post whatever i want as long as i meet the rules of the site...and yes, sometimes my blood pressure goes through the roof and i get upset and it shows through my posts...i've lived here a long, long time and truly believe that what is happening to this island via our government is gross mis-management, self centered, egotistical and not in the interest of THE PEOPLE...
and you mention my anonymous blogs...just who in the world is skipilotz? i looked in the phone book...can't find the person. so before you trash me then you need to tell all the other bloggers on this site who in the world are you???? i can probably guess though.

happy6 writes:

hey skypilotz...how do you find how how many postings...seriously...i can't figure that out...but certainly someone as smart as you can clue me in.

OldMarcoMan writes:

Just click on your name Shadow, you currently have 789 Posts.

u2cane writes:

Censored, I need to pick myself up cause I was rolling on the floor laughing so hard. too funny guys, on another note:

Skippy, where did you get your facts? Did you poll everyone on the island, or do like the press does and take 109 people in the whole country and assume that is representative of the whole nation? Blogs are for people venting frustrations and look, Marco isn't perfect, but no place is. Everyone has a right in this country to speak up and say what they want, unfortunately no matter how factually incorrect they may be. Its one of the great things about this country and one of the not so great things (let's face it, our country can be very apathetic about getting the real facts and you would have to check everything everyone said, because one person might have an article saying one thing and another person have one saying the exact opposite). That being said, we are not in China, so we are free to criticize when we feel errors in judgement have been made. Can you explain to me why our police department needs some of these extras? Why we need to build a fancy new bridge over a really short distance on Collier Blvd? Why in a down economy we have raised the tax rate? Why there is an inequality in utility rates (don't give me the bs about less work for condos either, its somewhat of a difference but not that much)? Why private companies can make adjustments when they have less income, but government seems completely incapable of adjusting? Why government shelters lackluster employees instead of firing them (I have family that works for the state and what goes on up there is incredible)?

JohninMarco writes:

in response to Skipilotz:

How you post doesn’t matter to me, actually I find your Chicken Little slapdash style amusing. It matters to you though, or should, if you want people to consider your opinion to be worthwhile. We agree on Stef’s community contributions, now we are getting somewhere. But you either failed to get, or chose to ignore the point. Stef stands in a public meeting and competently makes his points. You anonymously snipe from the comfort of your home, refusing to take responsibility for you past reactionary and erroneous tirades. We are on opposite sides again now, as I disagree with your opinion held by most of the island. If most of the island felt that way, they would be raising the roof at City Hall and Council meetings. Email, phone calls to councilors would be effective, as would letters to the editor in the local papers. Heck, why don't you call a reporter and ask them interview you if you have some answers not just complaints? MITA alleges hundreds of members, but where is their massive bemoaning congregate at meetings? You expect me to believe that after a decade or so, MITA can only rally a paltry percent of their members to any meeting: sewer; budget and other meetings where the inference is that the world will soon end? Their lack of presence is for the same 2 reasons only a handful of people ever write letters to the editor. Imaginary people can’t write or drive. More people have shown up to meetings about boats than taxes: FACT. Most of the people on the island are content and or happy. There are few maybe even a thousand who are not. Not a majority. As a second example highlighting the difference between a majority and minority: the last election. After a dozen or so rabble-rousers implied they had the masses supporting their campaigns they were defeated. Why: Imaginary people can’t vote either. Incidentally, while the few MITA members attend council meetings share the mic with Stef and make their point in a public way, they share your perchance for disinformation. Before one of the sixteen of them has a stroke let me cite a recent example. A MITA member stood up in a recent meeting stating because Sanibel has no police, Marco should not. No logic to support their argument, no facts presented, just nonsense. Sanibel has had their own police since 1986. JohninMarco, pay attention, you will see this topic again. Back to what you claim is your point: out of control city spending. Believe it or not I partially agree with you. I question many of the financial choices made by city leaders. I question construction project timing. I question other things too; the difference is I speak councilors and city people in-person. I tell them exactly what I like and what I don’t like. I have to ask: what do you really expect to happen by posting 800 or so anonymous, unfounded blogs? The way I see it you are wasting sundowns. While I have set the record straight, I may be in danger of missing one too.

I have resided here prior to the establishment of the police dept. and found no problem with the county response. We do not live in a high crime area and if I remember right the local pd was established to respond to residences homes who had alarms in them due to the county not responding. The problem was that the city council did not do their job in getting beter police services from the county. Further the Dumas case comes to mind. A waste of tax payers money by ignoring county and state laws already in place. Twelve million dollars spent every year for police from the county plus three million here. Any way you do the math, we could spend that 3 million far better than duplicating the same services.

happy6 writes:

thanks for the how to...i notice i wrote my first comments in october 2006...guess i'll stop blogging...4 years is way too much time to waste.

tathiede writes:

I agree with Shadow. My husband counted four cop cars at the school crossing on the two occasions he drove by. We also know of one cop that parks his SUV in his home driveway while on duty and keeps it running while he is in the house for hours.

TLeit writes:

As parent of children that attend school here on Marco, I am extremely grateful for the police presence at and around our schools. If you watch the news you can't help but hear about the horrors families face due to child predators. I think it is silly to critizice this so called over protection of those among us who need it the most.

Tom Leithauser

Marconian writes:

“Beating up the city has become a blood sport for a small percentage of our people.”“It’s a rush to do something politically correct rather than what meets the need of the people,” Thompson said that as directed by Council, he also made it a priority to cut education and training expenses for personnel.

“This is counter-productive to maintaining life and safety,” Overall though, he said, the look for cuts is like “some sort of financial witch hunt” to “placate the few people who will never be happy with their city.”

Thompson said specific projects may also be eliminated.

“We’ll go from a really great city to a mediocre city,”

This is the real yolk of this article councils lack of thought into whats best for the city! They really are in reality falling under the pressures of the overbearing minority that have plagued this city since its incorporation. cutting areas that are more damaging than good to the service provided by city staff, its not the answer! throwing salt on a wound to please the blood hounds,lets compare it to cutting off your nose to spite your face!
Council, Sometimes the best solution isn't always the most popular one.
quick fixes to please the naysayers doesn't only hurt the staffs ability to perform but it also causes morale and faith in there leaders to decline.
Cuts that put staff and departments in chaos and uncertainty of there future is not a positive spin on a already bad situation!
Think about your decisions wisely and with all in mind... residents/employees/voters and some are all three of these.
Just don't sacrifice a great city and staff to the pressures of those who are habitually unhappy!

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