I must confess the council meeting previously held on March 3rd was bitter-sweet for me as a resident of Palm Bay, and a citizen of a Constitutional Democratic-Republic, respectively.
On the one hand, Councilmembers voted 4 to 1 against a Budget Workshop Group, where each councilmember would have selected citizens to become part of a committee that would have worked specifically on the municipality's budget.
There were several reasons given as to why such a group is not necessary. One of them is: we elect coucilmembers and they elect a city manager. However, if that were the case, all other committees would not be necessary, either. I am of the opinion, however, that our City's dire economic situation may be one culprit, as I explained in a previous blog.
Although our financial books are out in the open to the public - as it should be - the question is how many people understand their local government financial circumstance beyond the tax rate they're paying? Government accountability is not only about lowering and raising taxes, it's also about how the money is spent, as well. As you all know, fiscal responsibility and accountability ensures that taxes remain low while essential government services remain sound (at minimum) or improve (at best).
A budget workshop group where each councilmember chooses one or more vigilant citizen from Palm Bay would have brought more involvement from the public. Then again, that's just my opinion.
On the other hand, I did see a glimmer of hope, a light at the end of the tunnel. In my last blog, previous to this one, on March 1st, I wrote about "5 Great Ideas For Palm Bay." One of my ideas, "No. 3: Emphasize Government Services on Public Works and Utilities," I spoke about how good roads attract businesses. I believe the Mayor said it best when he said, "If you don't have good roads, nothing works." I couldn't agree with him more.
(See Video Below)
By a unanimous vote, councilmembers agreed to increase the portion out of total millage that is allocated to road improvements from a 0.6413 millage rate to 1.00 millage rate.
Let me emphasize, THIS IS NOT A TAX INCREASE.
We still have the same tax rate at $7.50 per $1,000 (albeit the second highest in the county), only within the same tax rate (or millage) the portion pertaining to road improvements was bumped up a little by 0.3587 millage.
Time will tell whether or not this new re-allocation will be significant enough for our roads. But at least a first step was taken to use the money already going in, AND NOT A PENNY MORE RAISED IN TAXES OR ASSESSMENTS OR OBLIGATIONS.
To view the March 3rd City Council Meeting and choose the specific segments you'll like to watch, please click here.