As most know already, I intend to speak tonight during the public comments. I’ve managed to get my comments down to 5 minutes, although I’m sure I could fill quite a few more. I look forward to seeing you all there tonight. As a preview, I’m posting here the comments that i’ll be making tonight. If any of the Trustees would like a copy of the charts I’m using to support my statements, I’ll even have a copy for each of them, they only need ask for it. (Those charts will be posted here by tomorrow morning as well for all the residents to see.)
Now, public speaking does make me a little nervous, so please bear with me if i fumble a little bit. I hope to see a lot of people there to show our trustees, not that we are all agree with each other, but that we as residents deserve to be heard, to be told of changes, and to be represented properly.
So, here you go, the text of tonight’s comments:
I come before you tonight to comment on the erosion of our Public Safety Services to a point not seen since 1999. Every day the residents count on the men and women who provide the public safety services to answer their calls for help. Over the past 4 years, the capabilities of the Public Works department, the patrol officers staffing levels during the busiest shift in the afternoons and now the Fire Department’s response ability have all been reduced. No matter what “spin” the Village would like to try and place on it, cuts to these services effect the safety and security of the village. In the meantime, our taxes and our water bills continue to rise. The Trustees float the idea that the recession and overtime use are to blame for the need to eliminate services, but looking at the budget documents, these catchy talking points are shown to be excuses not based in fact. In a 2011 article in the courier, the Village stated that it was down to 177 employees from 209 in 2008. That’s roughly 3 million in cuts, and yet our revenue and budgets now are nearly identical to what they were then. Where is that extra money? During the same time that the public safety departments were being reduced, the village added 2 new positions to the tune of 235000/yr, gave the Assistant Village Manager a 21% raise, the Village Manager a 10% raise, the Assistant to the Village Manager a 15% raise, the HR Director an 11% raise, and other Administration employees between 5-7% raises. You have cut our public safety departments to spend on Village Hall and not been transparent about it. While there was a deficit in 2009 during the recession, our actual numbers, supported by the increased taxes, bills and fees have led to a rather stable income according to the posted budget documents.
What hasn’t been stable is the way the village has made Assumptions about revenue and expenditures. Out of the 5 years of actual numbers posted, the village has managed to accurately predict revenues only 10% of the time and when I talk about inaccuracies – I’m talking about 10s and 100s of thousands of dollars – a failing performance in my view. It’s precisely because of the 90% inaccuracy rate that the village always believes it’s in financial crisis and in need to cut. If the Village had more accurately projected in the first place it would have been able to set the budget levels better and the yearly cycle of crisis cutting could be avoided.
The Mission statement of our Village clearly defines the priorities in which this board needs to utilize its revenue. First in the Mission statement is public health and safety. That means the Police, Fire and Public Works. Next, you call for Balanced Growth, and yet, and yet the number of vacant properties and store fronts continue to grow. Finally you call for effective financial management, but being wrong 90% of the time with our revenue and budgets could hardly be considered effective.
Our budget needs to reflect the mission statement’s priorities. 5 officers minimum on Third Watch aren’t enough. This should be at least 8 to handle the calls, backup other officers and reduce the response times. The fire department needs to have 5 in each station, to be able to staff 6 vehicles 24 hours a day, not 4. The board’s new staffing model means that greater than 50% of all ambulance requests on the east side and west side of the village– 1 in 2 have a response time greater than 4 minutes, and brain death starts occurring after 4 minutes without oxygen. It’s dangerous and irresponsible. And while the East and West Side stations are well into the danger zone, putting 5 at station 1 has caused a measurable improvement, showing that 5 in a station demonstrates an increase in public safety. The numbers and data simply don’t support that the TEST of the new staffing model on the public was viable.
The fact is that at a time when we are reducing Essential Public Safety Services, allocating funds to new administrative positions, not ensuring an accuracy rate of the financial planning that is well above 10%, failing to allocate the funds based upon the mission of the Village and blaming that on whatever talking point may be popular is not only irresponsible, it’s a violation of the trust of your constituents. The trustees need to understand that we voted to put them there – we gave them our trust and confidence. Ignoring what your residents have to say won’t make the problem go away. While you may not agree with my position or my ideas, it is none-the-less your responsibility to represent me and my position, as well as every other resident and business in our village while sitting as a Trustee on the board.
In case you aren’t able to make tonight’s meeting, remember that you can always watch the board meeting live from your computer at the Village Website.