Arntzen Raises Budget Questions is Largo Prepares for a Review
by Leo Coughlin
LARGO - Commissioner Gigi Arntzen has put a laser focus on the city's fiscal 2008 budget and has raised questions she wants scrutinized during the commission's budget review.
In a communication last Friday to City Manager Mac Craig and her colleagues on the commission Arntzen listed 20 or so areas that she wanted to give a close look to.
"These are areas I felt I needed further justification for and would ask Mr. Craig to pass this list on to the departments identified for them to review," Arntzen wrote.
She continued, "Some of these costs seem high, but they well may be justifiable." Arntzen stressed that she was not suggesting that any of the costs be eliminated, but wanted them reviewed with an eye to discussing ways to reduce them.
"I know the commission has stated that we should not get down to 'this level' of review. But, once again, I think the pressure we are under to reduce our millage rate, whatever extra effort we can take to look for savings, we should do," Arntzen said.
Arntzen's questions in just about every instance are sharp and pointed.
For example, she raised questions on expenditures by the city clerk's office on absentee ballot printing and election advertising and wondered about the torrent of funds that flow to the city attorney's law firm.
In the Community Development department a line that proposes to spend $50,000 for "software consulting" (technical implementation) elicited the comment, "What is this?" from Arntzen.
Again, in the same department the notation "Software subscription $50,000 (tech plan)" got a similar query from Arntzen.
As to City Commission expenses, Arntzen proposes reducing the $17,500 earmarked for travel. Most of such travel is in the form of junkets or boondoggling.
For example, already $3,071 is being requested by Mayor Pat Gerard and Commissioner Rodney Wood to attend the National League of Cities meeting in New Orleans in November.
This is an absolutely unnecessary expense, and even if it were justified the attendance of the mayor only would suffice. It used to be that only the mayor went to these orgies.
Gerard is requesting $1,438 for her end of the expenses, and Woods wants a whopping $1,633 (he threw in a couple of added attractions).
Woods hails from Louisiana in the New Orleans area so the speculation is that this is a boondoggle free trip home for him.
Of course, it may be that he is along to show Largo's mayor the delights of the Vieux Carre.
Arntzen questions more than $750,000 in the Recreation, Parks and Art budget, an empire that has grown to monumental proportions.
An example of one question raised by Arntzen is on an item listed as "Add'l Utilities New Bldg $63,000" where Arntzen asks, "What new building?"
Of course, this department burns up $10,000 a week in people's money maintaining the so-called Cultural Center.
In hard times the biggest question of all is why would the commission entertain spending three grand for two commission members to sojourn for the best part of a week in New Orleans and to spend $60,000 on a memorial to Martin Luther King?
As one observer noted on the New Orleans junket, "How you gonna keep 'em in Largo once they've seen the bright lights of the French Quarter?"
Laissez les bon temps rouler.
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