Before I go further with this post, I want to make clear that I have not extensively reviewed the budget put forth by the City of Apopka for Fiscal year 2016-2017. As many of my readers know, my husband Phillip had a major medical emergency in August, and we have been dealing with that since. But I have read several accounts of the first budget approval meeting and of comments made during that meeting, and am aware also of some of the concerns about the budget and the property tax increase raised during that meeting and before and it is on these aspects I will comment.
It seems that Apopka Commissioner Velazquez is disappointed in two of her fellow commissioners, Dean and Bankson, for their NO votes for both budget approval and for the proposed property tax rate increase. This year’s budget topped the $100,000,000.00 mark for the first time in our City’s history, over $14 million more than the budget for 2015-2016. In scolding her fellow Commissioners, Velazquez lamented how much time she dedicated to the budget, hours and hours as well as 5 budget workshops, and “here we are today with a 3-2 vote. I’m disappointed. I’m very disappointed right now.” Velazquez is disappointed in two commissioners who did not draw the same conclusions as she did on the budget and property tax increase, but instead did their own thinking and decided to stand up for the people they represent instead of rubber stamp a budget filled with pork? The good commissioner DOES know that fellow City Commissioners serve at the Voter’s pleasure, not hers, right? I am disappointed too, Commissioner Velazquez, in YOU, Commissioner Becker and Mayor Kilsheimer, for NOT standing up for us taxpayers.
Commissioner Becker, while waving a copy of a 728 page city budget (what’s wrong with THAT picture), arrogantly chided that people had plenty of time to come during the workshops, but few made the effort. For one thing, the workshops were scheduled during the day, when most people were at work, and secondly, the public was not allowed to speak at these workshops anyway.
Here’s the thing. A city’s functions are to provide a safe environment for it’s residents: police, fire, water and sewage and roads where applicable. THESE are items that should take top priority in any City budget and where the bulk of expenditures should be. Anything else is icing on the cake. In order to spend on the extras, property taxes should not be raised, nor should the City reserves be tapped to balance a top-heavy budget filled with “I wants”, and funding for programs run by friends of the Mayor that have yet to show any discernible results. Commissioners Bankson and Dean should be commended for asking the tough questions about this budget and tax increase and what our City’s priorities should be and for representing the best interests of city taxpayers. On the other hand, Commissioners Velazquez and Becker, along with Mayor Kilsheimer are the ones WE taxpayers should be disappointed in. Mayor Kilsheimer had a tantrum several weeks ago and blamed citizens for the City’s budget woes, and it seems Commissioners Bankson and Dean are now getting the blame for those same woes. Kilsheimer, Becker and Velazquez should look in the mirror and express disappointment in themselves, for not being good stewards of the taxpayer money.
It is good indeed to see so many citizens involving themselves in the budget and other City business. Continue to ask the questions, do the research and challenge our Commissioners to justify the optional and irresponsible expenditures in our budget.. That is my intent.