Before voters too harshly judge Margate Mayor, Tommy Ruzzano, Vice Mayor, Arlene Schwartz and Commissioner, Anthony Caggiano as three of five city commissioners electing to raise the city's fire fee as a means to generate city revenues by roughly $2 million, consider the real source of Margate’s financial woes. Two commissioners who support selling $30 million worth of taxpayer-owned land for $10 million. City land that if sold to developers won’t hit Margate tax rolls for nearly ten years when the city’s Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA) expires. ___________
Commissioner, Joanne Simone maintains a respectable fiscally conservative nature on the dais. In large part she wants tax dollars only to support city services and quality of life for Margate residents. She seemingly does her homework when stating her position as an elected official. She’s courteous, polite, relatively transparent and conducts herself in a professional manner. Unfortunately, she supports a land giveaway that pales in comparison to the $75 increase approved by the majority of the city commission Wednesday - a decision that brings the household fire assessment from $225 to $300 in the coming fiscal year.
Sitting next to Simone on the dais is Commissioner, Lesa Peerman; a rude, condescending elected official. Her feet are firmly grounded in hypocrisy. She is unprofessional in ongoing attempts to get fellow commissioners and constituents to see things her way by yelling, repeating herself over and over and interrupting others out of order on the dais. She is a Social Media sociopath as evidenced by her comments on Facebook and those made online by alter ego 'Charlie Tango.' She publicly announced that she will not be running for re-election in November 2018. Or will she? She’s flipped so many times in her tenure as an elected official it’s tough to keep track. She, along with Simone, supports the downtown land giveaway and talks about it like it’s the best thing since sliced bread even though there is hardly a plan in place for it. For background read: Downtown Margate Available at a Discount. Moreover, Peerman has violated multiple Broward ethics laws.
Fact is the CRA has diverted millions in taxpayer dollars over the years that have only benefited a fraction of the city (roughly 23%). The agency contributes little to nothing to support police and fire services, and little to nothing to the betterment of citywide infrastructure.
Had Simone and Peerman not agreed to the discounted development deal - along with Commissioners Frank Talerico and Joyce Bryan who both left office shortly after signing the deal last year - the city would have never had to raise the fire fee and at the same time could have reduced the city's millage rate in a fiscally responsible manner. Not agreeing to the deal would have left the land in the hands of taxpayers and further enabled the city to abolish the CRA and put millions of dollars back on city tax rolls.
While we at MargateNews.net do not feel the fire fee increase is necessary to build a new fire station or to support quality fire-rescue services in Margate - as stated by the Margate fire chief at the Wednesday city meeting, we do believe the downtown development deal needs to end. This, so taxpayers are no longer encumbered with future revenue problems by achieving fair market value for 36-acres of land they own at the crossroads of Margate Boulevard and State Road 7, aka the "City Center."
Raise $2 million in revenues or lose $20 million in a poorly executed land sale. We'll take the former.
In this light we encourage voters not to misjudge commissioners for doing what they believe is right by residents - though there may be other methods of balancing a budget, such as living within the means of the city’s tax base and that of Margate taxpayers when it comes to city salaries and providing benefits to employees. Elected officials know only what they are told by city staff and records they receive from city staff, which often are provided last minute and insufficient to enable informed decision making in a timely manner.
The City of Margate has been mismanaged for years and millions lost because of it. The CRA has been investigated by the Office of the Inspector General and poor financial oversight in the city has surfaced on multiple occasions. Margate is currently on its fifth city manager in six years.
While in office Ruzzano, Schwartz and Caggiano have asked vital questions about taxpayer expenditures without rubber stamping what they're told by city staff - but then again so has Commissioner Simone.
No, we too do not want elected officials to receive a blanket car allowance - a center of debate despite the minimal expenditure when compared to the whole of city staff. To this end, officials were elected to office by a wide margin and have since saved taxpayers money by questioning bloated city contracts and a broken system of government in desperate need of repair.