It’s only been two and a half months of publishing the Gateway Sun, and we’ve probably all learned more than we care to about how the Gateway Services Community Development District operates, and who operates it.

Conversely, it’s been several years since the Gateway Gazette was around – and there was somebody actually monitoring what is said and done by the GSCDD board and staff.

We’re getting the feeling that the GSCDD may need time to adjust back to that reality.

But anyway. On to the topic: our money.

How many of our fellow residents know that Gateway’s annual budget has ballooned from $3 million in 2004 to an expected $7.8 million in fiscal 2015? Put another way, Gateway’s operating costs have risen roughly 5 times faster than inflation in the past decade.

And that doesn’t even consider that the FY2015 spending number almost doubles to astonishing $12.7 million when you include capital outlay for major projects. A ton of money is flying out of the GSCDD’s coffers and based on the small sample size of what the Sun has seen there isn’t anyone meticulously guarding the vault.

And that’s probably not going to change any time soon.

We have seen and documented Chairman William Guy complain about how he hates to spend unnecessary money … immediately before or after he casts a vote to spend unnecessary money.

We have a staff at the GSCDD who, when tasked with selecting a health insurance plan on behalf of themselves and knowing they would pass on the entire cost to the residents they serve, selected one of the most robust plans available in the United States.

We know we’re not making any friends over at 13240 Griffin Drive when we ask this, but do the residents of Gateway really need to pay $90,000 to $100,000 per year for health insurance for 10 people?

The fact the staff didn’t understand the optics of their choice, coupled by the fact they didn’t seem concerned about the economic realities was equally mind-boggling and eye-opening.

And when the Supervisors were presented with the details of this plan? Approved by 4-0 vote. Even the one Supervisor, Gary Neubauer, who emailed the District Manager with his concerns and then raised objections at the board meeting voted in favor of it.

One decision that we could have used Neubauer voting against was the $3,000 gamble the Supervisors made at the last board meeting, on the fly, out of nowhere and with very little discussion – let alone understanding all the facts. It wasn’t even on the agenda, it was just a case where one Supervisor said “hey I have an idea!” and before anyone knew it Gateway made a $3,000 bet with no guarantee of any pay-off.

More on that later this week.

But for now, we’re left to wonder how are these things happening? And the answer isn’t difficult.

The Board of Supervisors meets about 24 times each year for 3 hours. That’s 72 hours of meeting time, half of which is taken up by resident comments, going over minutes from previous meetings and other house-keeping items.

That leaves 30 to 40 hours for the Supervisors to debate the issues and manage Gateway.

Per year.

With the way the Supervisors operate their meetings, running Gateway simply cannot be done properly in that little amount of time. There is far too much going on even right now, and new things get put on their plate on a regular basis.

I know that the GSCDD is not a $12.7 million company, but it sure has a lot in common with one. It has a board of directors, employees, a product (water), services (recreation and others) and thousands of customers (the residents).

How many companies with all this going on could have its upper management communicate for 30 to 40 hours per year and still be run properly? Not many. Add in the usual distractions that, quite frankly, are perfectly normal and the chances of good things happening are even lower.

We all understand they hired Severn Trent to help manage the district day to day, but Severn Trent doesn’t get to stop the Supervisors from spending $105,000 too much on a landscaping contract, and they didn’t seem to see the problem with the staff’s choice in health insurance plans.

The GSCDD is going to have to decide on its own to change how it manages both their time and Gateway’s money – or they won’t get maximum value out of either.

Nobody can do it for them.

Not Severn Trent. Not even the residents … unless a lot more of us start to care.

They’re going to have to decide on their own that they need to treat every single one of Gateway’s dollars that they’re entrusted with as though it’s the most important dollar they’ll ever spend, or they’ll continue to waste money.

Unless changes are made by the GSCDD itself, both by the board and the staff, this is the GSCDD we’re going to have to live with.

Editor of the Gateway Sun and owner of restaurant delivery service Florida Food Runner.

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