Q & A: Nathan Skop


Published: Monday, January 16, 2012 at 7:04 p.m.
Last Modified: Monday, January 16, 2012 at 7:04 p.m.

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Nathan Skop

Facts

NATHAN SKOP

Age: 44
Birthplace: Charlotte, N.C.
Occupation: Attorney
Education: Law degree, University of Florida (2006); master’s degree, business administration, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute; bachelor’s degree in aerospace engineering, UF (1991); Mergers and Acquisitions Executive Education Program, The Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania; certificate in environmental management, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
Political offices: Commissioner, Florida Public Service Commission, April 2007-January 2011 (appointed by Gov. Charlie Crist)
Past elections: None
Party affiliation: Republican
Community involvement: Guardian ad litem
Contact: 352-448-1455, vote4skop@gmail.com
On the Web: website

1. What are the biggest issues the city faces, and how would you as a commissioner solve them?

Biomass rate increase: Fiscally irresponsible and negotiated in secret to the detriment of ratepayers, the biomass contract is a financial catastrophe of the City Commission’s own making. Ratepayers will be forced to pay hundreds of dollars more per year. I will seek to terminate the contract to protect ratepayers. Fiscal responsibility/open government: Stop wasteful spending, reduce taxes, require transparency, encourage participation. Economic development: Promote and capture economic investment to attract business, create jobs, address wage disparity, retain graduates and reduce taxes. Public safety: Ensure that law enforcement and the fire department have adequate resources to protect our community.

2. The city is projecting a nearly $2 million shortfall for its two-year budget period ending in 2013. What initiatives should the commission put in place to raise revenues or cut expenses to make up the gap?

The projected shortfall is inaccurate and fails to account for the current-year budget surplus. The two-year budget must be updated to reflect the surplus. Fiscal responsibility starts with ending wasteful spending. Expenditures of taxpayer funds must be necessary, prudent and justified. Reduced property values have caused revenue to decline while expenses are increasing. Additionally, the biomass contract impairs GRU’s ability to maintain existing revenue transfer levels without substantial rate hikes. Economic development is critical to increasing revenue to fill the budget gap while avoiding additional taxes and fees. Spending must be prioritized and reduced to maintain a balanced budget.

3. What are your thoughts on the city’s 30-year contract to purchase biomass power?

The biomass contract is a financial catastrophe of the City Commission’s own making. The contract is fiscally irresponsible and was negotiated in secret to the detriment of GRU ratepayers. None of the assumptions presented by the City Commission and GRU to justify the project have come true. Ratepayers will be forced to pay excessive rate increases totaling hundreds of dollars a year as a result this $3.1 billion mistake. Our elected officials failed to protect ratepayers by ensuring the “Termination for Convenience” provision was deleted from the final contract. I will seek to terminate the contract to protect ratepayers.

4. Do you support making changes to employee pension plans? Explain.

Government employees traditionally receive lower salaries in consideration for retirement benefits. The city is obligated to honor the pension benefits promised to existing employees by ensuring that their pension plans are adequately funded in accordance with actuarial guidelines. Any changes to collective bargaining unit benefits must be negotiated in good faith in accordance with federal law. Defined contribution and individual savings plans could be a cost-effective benefit option to consider for exempt and non-represented employees who desire additional flexibility in managing and transferring their retirement savings accounts on a forward going basis.

5. What steps, if any, can and should the city take to improve the local economy?

The city must reduce taxes, fees and utility bills to strengthen our local economy. Economic development is critical to creating jobs and increasing revenue to fill the budget gap while avoiding additional taxes and fees. Accordingly, the city must promote and capture economic investment to attract and retain business, create jobs, address wage disparity, retain graduates and reduce taxes. The city must also manage GRU to minimize utility-rate increases. The biomass contract is a job killer for local business. Electric rates will increase substantially. The city must stop this fiscally irresponsible project before it destroys our local economy.

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