What do the City of North Miami Beach and the Village of Pinecrest have in common? Well, for one thing, both places are inhabited by people. Beyond that, not much. The two municipalities couldn’t be more different.
Pinecrest is a fairly wealthy community of about 18,000 residents (updated from the 2010 Census), covering a total area of 7.6 square miles, with a median family income of about $122,500.00. North Miami Beach, on the other hand, has about 39,000 residents (updated from the 2010 Census) crammed into 5.0 square miles, with a median family income of $35,000.00.
According to Pinecrest’s Fiscal year 2011/2012 Budget, the Village’s anticipated revenue from all sources is expected to be $23,353,882 (an average of $1,297.44 per capita). The expenses for the current fiscal year is scheduled to be $17,278,040, which means there’s a surplus in excess of $6,000,000. The budget states, “The Fiscal Year 2012 Budget shows a $6,050,642 unassigned General Fund balance at the end of the year. In accordance with the Village’s Financial Reserve Policies, a plan must be presented for the use of any excess surplus. By doing so, we ensure that the Village remains in compliance with adopted policies and that the policies do not inadvertently create adverse effects. According to the adopted Financial Policies, the General Fund unassigned fund balance will be maintained in an amount greater than or equal to ten percent (10%) of the annual General Fund Budget. Furthermore, the Financial Policies state that the Village shall strive to establish and then maintain a reserve of $1,000,000 for operating emergencies.”
Yeah, I’m impressed.
The largest percentage of Pinecrest’s expenditures is 64% toward “personal service costs,” which is “tied to salaries and benefits,” which was reduced by $811,340 over the last fiscal year. The Village Manager explains that, “The large decrease in personal service costs is attributable in large part to the decrease in the Florida Retirement System employer’s contribution from 23.23% to 15.47%. This decrease affected the Police Department budget with a total decrease of $724,770 which also included a decrease in budgeted overtime hours and the elimination of two officers and one Lieutenant due to attrition. The balance of $86,570 came about from the elimination of the Village Manager’s Retirement Health Savings account and a budgetary adjustment to the health insurance due to the use of a new formula for determining allocations for employees.” Furthermore, she wrote, “In addition, in order to achieve increased savings, I am recommending that the Village begin bringing back the workforce to 2008 levels or less, through attrition, without sacrificing the quantity or quality of the goods and services we provide.”
I wonder what percentage of North Miami Beach’s expenditures go toward salaries and benefits. Hmmm….
Moving right along.
A view of the Organizational Chart of the government of Pinecrest, shows a pretty simple picture of how efficiently the Village is run.
At the very top of the hierarchy is a box labeled “Citizens,” which sits right above the box labeled “Village Council.” How quaint! A municipality that actually gives top billing to the very people who are the reason for its existence in the first place. The chart flows to a clearly delineated chain of command. I have yet to see an Organizational Chart for the City of North Miami Beach, but I’m guessing it would look more like this:
The Village of Pinecrest employs 116 full time and 47 part time employees. There are 4 employees in the office of the Village Manager, two in the Clerk’s office, 3 in the Finance Department, 4 in General Government (Human Resources), 73 in the police department (50 police officers, 23 civilians), 15 in Building and Planning, 6 in Public Works, 24 in Parks and Recreation, 8 in the Community Center and 24 in Pinecrest Gardens.
Of the 213 people on Pinecrest’s payroll, 56 are employed in a recreational capacity – 6 more than there are cops. I’m guessing that the Village of Pinecrest takes play time seriously.
All this is clearly displayed in a 151 page document, with pictures, charts and explanations in plain English for anyone who cares to know how the Village is run.
A review of the 2011/2012 adopted budget for the City of North Miami Beach shows an expected revenue of $37,360,354 (an average of $957.96 per capita). A summary of the proposed expenditures totals $37,360,354. Sorry. No surplus.
I would love to give you a breakdown of the number of employees, synopsis of expenditures, and the like, but wading through North Miami Beach’s voluminous 610 page budget consisting of spreadsheet after spreadsheet would be way too insane a task for even the Gadfly to think about doing. (I dare anyone to take a look at this budget and tell me what it says.) I will leave that job in the hands of residents who are much more patient and capable than I am. Suffice it to say, I’m told the City of North Miami Beach has approximately 450 employees after layoffs, resignations and retirements.
If we extrapolate the data from the Village of Pinecrest to a city the size of North Miami Beach, which is roughly twice the population, you would think it would cost approximately twice as much money and about double the number of employees to run our city.
This is not the case.
The Village of Pinecrest prides itself on having “one of the lowest [millage rates] in Miami-Dade County. At a whopping 2.1040, I’d say they’re not exaggerating. According to this table, if a resident’s home is worth the median $489,000.00, he pays $1,028.86 to the Village.
On the other hand, the millage rate for North Miami Beach, is 6.60360, plus an additional 1.25800 for debt service, or a combined millage of 7.29400. Accordingly, a home in North Miami Beach worth $489,000.00 would yield $3,566.77 in municipal taxes to the city, or approximately three and a half times the taxes paid to the Village of Pinecrest for the same home. WTF?
While Pinecrest has 163 employees, the City of North Miami Beach has about 450, or nearly three times as many.
No wonder our millage rate is so high! Naturally, it will take three times the taxes to support a workforce three times the size. DUH!
The only ratio that fits the comparison is that at 97 police officers to Pinecrest’s 50, we have roughly twice the number of cops for approximately double the population. (I could say we make up for it by having at least three times the rate of crime, but that would be beside the point.)
We residents of North Miami Beach are constantly being told that we get what we pay for. We’re told that our level of service justifies the cost. Sorry, not even close.
While our Leisure Services Department (f/k/a Parks & Rec) does the best it can with the resources it has at its disposal, our parks are in atrocious condition. In the city “Where People Care,” we devote less than half the recreational resources to twice the amount residents than Pinecrest has. Our P&R Department has about half the employees that Pinecrest does, and our facilities aren’t even in the same league. Yet, we are paying three and a half times the money in taxes for way less than a third of the services that the residents of Pinecrest enjoy.
On top of that, Pinecrest publishes a budget that’s infinitely easier and more enjoyable to peruse. Check it out if you have a chance.
Despite its seeming perfection, Pinecrest is not without its problems. A recent rash of residential burglaries has residents concerned. In its newsletter, the Village’s Crime Prevention Officer wrote a column advising residents how to prevent these crimes and what to do in case it happens. There’s some great advice given, and I suggest you read it.
What’s even more amazing is the Pinecrest Police Department’s 2011 Annual Report, which describes in minute detail everything you wanted to know about policing in Pinecrest without having to ask. It includes an introduction and summation from the Chief of Police, its department Organizational Chart, crime statistics by year since 2003, as well as an in-depth description of police department activity and interesting cases they’ve worked on. Somehow, the PD has managed to exist without a SWAT team. But, they do have community policing. As an added bonus, the Pinecrest PD has a bicycle patrol. The residents don’t seem to be complaining.
The bottom line is that the City of North Miami Beach is in dire need of some serious reorganization. No, we cannot compare ourselves to a place like Pinecrest, which is a relatively new city, and was obviously organized properly from the date of its incorporation. It certainly hasn’t been around long enough to develop a “good old boys” network of cronyism that’s hard to vote out of office. But, just because we keep hearing the tired argument of “that’s the way we’ve always done it,” doesn’t mean we can’t break the cycle of corruption and government waste.
We finally have a City Council with a majority of intelligent people, who realize that the bleeding has to stop. Despite what a few disgruntled people think, four of our Council members are only looking out for the best interest of the all the residents of the city and are not beholden to any one person or group of people.
We may never be a well oiled, efficiently run city like Pinecrest. But we finally have the opportunity to at least make tremendous improvements in the way ours is run. For years, probably decades, the residents of North Miami Beach have been sold a bill of goods. They were told that all was well with the world, while the well was running dry. Previous leaders either didn’t know how to run a city efficiently, or didn’t care as long as their own needs were met. Even those with good intentions got burned out trying to fight their own colleagues to do the right thing. It was a never ending battle in which the residents always lost. We now finally have at least four honest people to work for us instead of against us.
If ever there was the time for the elected officials and the residents to work together and get NMB in shape, it is now. Let’s not miss this window of opportunity.
“Spreading the Wealth”