Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility

The case for hiring more

Longboat Town Manager Tipton wasn’t exactly convincing that the town needs to expand its employee count. Come next year, we’ll need to know.

  • Longboat Key
  • Opinion
  • Share

In the overall scheme of government jurisdictions,  comparatively speaking, the town of Longboat Key has been a paragon of fiscal management. 

There are cities, towns and counties in Florida — and certainly in the Northeast — where taxpayers might kill to have the governance that is enjoyed on Longboat Key.

Of course, some people might say: How can you screw things up when you have paradise? It can happen and almost has a few times in the past 30 years. But overall, Longboat Key taxpayers benefit from having smart elected commissioners and competent town administrators. 

That seems to be the case now, but taxpayers won’t know for sure for a year or two, after the effects of this year’s budget has cycled through.

Longboat’s fiscal health has also benefited from the town always having a few highly engaged, resident taxpayer watchdogs, each of them helping to keep the town within the financial and operational guardrails. A few that come to mind: Rainer Josenhanss, Gene Jaleski, Lynn Larson, Tom Freiwald, Lenny Landau, the Longboat Key Revitalization Committee and the now disbanded Longboat Key Public Interest Committee.

Today, one of the current watchdogs is Dr. Jim Whitman. As he noted to us recently, he is the only Longboat resident who attends every Longboat Key Town Commission meeting. 

At the Town Commission meeting Sept. 11, Whitman expressed his concern about Town Manager Howard Tipton’s plans in the new fiscal year to hire more town employees and bring town staffing back to previous levels.

“I’m not talking about pay adjustments, benefit adjustments, increase based on inflation, any of that,” Whitman said. “I’m talking about the increase in the head count.” 

A good point.

A common occurrence in government is that once a program is put in place, rarely does it disappear. Which is Whitman’s fear.

Throughout the town’s budget process, Tipton — like other government administrators — has pointed out the effects of inflation and the pressure that has created to raise pay rates. A legitimate argument. And during the meeting, Tipton responded to Whitman’s concerns, noting that a new analyst will be needed to shoulder the implementation of new planning and zoning software. 

But as we have observed, Tipton has not presented to commissioners in detail what would logically be asked in a corporate conference room. As a business consultant told us once, “You can make a lot of good decisions with data.”

For instance, Commissioner Gary Coffin said, “he heard” of issues stemming from the fire department being understaffed. He also projected that with the future growth in business on the Key another inspector will be necessary.

But to paraphrase Jerry Maguire: Show us the data. Show us the options. Show us cause and effect.

How much overtime is being worked and paid because of a manpower shortage? What jobs are not being done properly or going unfulfilled? 

Is there data showing negative consequences of not hiring? How would customer service and operations be negatively  affected without hiring? Are there staffers who can take on more? 

Conversely, show how a full-time slot is justified. What will be accomplished that is not being accomplished? What’s more, why not start with a part-time contractor and then determine whether the work requires another full-time staffer?

These are not questions commissioners should be asking. Their job is to set policy. But they are questions the town administration should be answering and showing to commissioners so taxpayers can be assured additional hiring is necessary.

We understand that governments always want more resources and money. And when the funds become available, it makes sense to put them to use. 

But knowing how much money is wasted in government, it’s difficult for the average taxpayer to feel good about seeing his property tax rate fall only 1.5%, while general fund spending will be rising 13%.

Here’s to hoping that Town Manager Tipton can go before the Town Commission a year from now with satisfaction that his expanded staff and compensation strategies have paid off for taxpayers in better, more efficient service.



Matt Walsh

Matt Walsh is the CEO and founder of Observer Media Group.

Latest News