Betty Grinnan, former school librarian for what is now North Broward Preparatory School, and Judith Teller-Kaye, former partner with management consulting firm Accenture, are unlikely activists. At least on the surface. They are women of a certain age, soft-spoken, polite, the kind of women who would look at home in a book club or perhaps lunching with the ladies. But appearances are deceiving; these two women, who met a few years ago when they were members of Friends of the Library, are about to rock city hall.
Grinnan and Teller-Kaye started out on a mission to make sure the new downtown library was built—and then became the driving force to make it a priority for the city. Now the same two women are taking on Boca Raton’s budget —and it looks to be a firefight.
Grinnan and Teller-Kaye have formed a group called Boca Citizens for Fiscal Responsibility, and are galvanizing citizens to demand that the city take on the staggering pay and pension benefits of city firefighters, which are taking down city and county budgets nationwide—including Boca Raton’s.
(It’s not a new subject to this magazine; John Shuff, one of its owners, has been trying to get the city’s attention on this very issue since 1994, when he was part of a team of local business leaders charged to identify cost savings for Boca Raton under then-city manager Donna Dreska. Shuff found the bloated firefighters’ pay and benefits was a disaster in the making—that if someone did not take on the union and get costs under control, the city would eventually be in serious fiscal trouble.)
Fast-forward to 2012. The city budget is straining under the weight of police and firefighters’ benefits, and the future looks even bleaker. Grinnan and Teller-Kaye are leading the grassroots charge with boots-on-the-ground meetings and a viral newsletter to make the city face this problem—and get the budget in line.
On August 27 at 6 p.m. a special Boca Raton City Council Workshop meeting in city council chambers will be held to discuss the upcoming city budget.
Grinnan and Teller-Kaye want Boca citizens to come, and they want you to ask these questions:
• Does the City Council have the political courage that other South Florida communities have demonstrated to tackle the rising cost of public safety compensation and pension benefits?
• The City Manager has been authorized to raise property taxes by up to 11 percent and also raise the fire fee by 6 percent. What will the extra money be used for?
• What percentage of our tax revenue will go to public safety compensation and pension contributions in the proposed budget?
• What steps is the city planning to take to deal with the unfunded public safety pension liability?
The Ladies Who Lunch are taking on some big issues—and we’ll be with them every step of the way. Watch this space for updates, and if you want to connect with the Boca Citizens for Fiscal Responsibility, sign up for Facebook today and visit its page.