The Need for More Accountable Financial Stewardship
Each year Naples City Council authorizes budget expenditures in excess of $150 million. It is estimated that residents pay, through property taxes and fees, about 85-90% of all taxes the City collects. There are troubling instances of weak fiscal control, cost overruns, misallocation of funds, and questionable priorities in how your tax dollars are used.
- Following hurricane Irma, Collier County adopted a one cent incremental sales tax intended primarily to fund ‘hardening infra-structure’ to lessen storm damage, hasten recovery, and improve citizen safety. Over the next 7 years Naples will receive $25.8 million from this new tax, however preliminary plans allocate a third of the spending for cosmetic/beautification projects that increase redevelopment potential of commercial properties.
- Serious budget variances need stronger scrutiny by City Council. Case in point: Over the past 4 years litigation expenses have risen from $100,000 in 2015 to $400,000 in the 2019-2020 Plan. Cumulative litigation expense 2018-2020, approaches $1.0 million: clearly something is amiss here, yet City Council has provided little clarity as to root causes.
- Cost overruns on major construction projects, notably the new Fire Station and Baker Park have cost the City close to $10 million. The fact that both are worthy projects doesn’t mask the absence of reasonable controls and accountability.
- The loss of $700,000 of city money was reported in the paper but little details have been disclosed. City Council owes the public the details of its internal audit into the root causes that allowed payment of $700,000 for a fraudulent invoice. Accountability is required.
Tax paying residents need to know that spending authorizations come with appropriate controls, that extraordinary variances are remedied, and that some measure of accountability becomes more institutionalized at City Hall.
I will work energetically on the City Council to ensure greater visibility, cost control and fiscal accountability.