Betty Grinnan and Judith Teller Kaye

Founders of Boca Citizens for Fiscal Responsibility

Betty Grinnan, former school librarian for what is now North Broward Preparatory School, teamed up with Judith Teller Kaye, former partner with global management consulting firm Accenture, a few years ago when they were members of Friends of the Library. The duo embarked on a mission to make sure the new downtown library was built—and then they became the driving force to make it a priority for the city.

Today, the same two women are taking on the city’s budget after forming Boca Citizens for Fiscal Responsibility. Grinnan and Teller Kaye send out newsletters, attend city council meetings and spread the word about Boca Raton’s looming fiscal crisis brought about by the rising costs of police and fire services—and the vast unfunded pension benefits.

Grinnan says it all came about when the city seemed to ignore their concerns. “For some time I have been concerned about the rising cost of public safety, particularly the fireman’s contract,” she says. “We got a copy of the contract the city of Boca had signed and analyzed it. We then did a PowerPoint presentation during the public process goal-setting session for the city this spring. There was no action taken. There was no response given to our very detailed analysis of the problem. Therefore we decided to start a newsletter and inform citizens about the problem.”

What is your strategy now and what are the obstacles before you?

Grinnan: Our strategy includes continuing to inform the citizens through the newsletter. ... Our obstacles are twofold—two huge obstacles. The power of the police and fire unions, which the politicians nationwide have been reluctant to take on, and second, the [fact that] the fireman’s contract does not come up for renegotiation until September 2014. Nothing will happen in our city unless three of the five council members direct our city staff to develop a plan to solve the problem of the rising costs of public safety and the unfunded pension plan.

Not solving this issue spells what for the city?

Teller Kaye: Financial disaster, higher taxes [and the] sweeping out of other public services. Police services are going up 5.8 percent and fire-rescue services are going up 7.2 percent. This year, they are also raising taxes. Taxes are going up, the fire fee is going up, the waste management fee is going up and that amount is being used, in part, to fund the increase in police and fire services.

What do you need people to do?

Teller Kaye: We need people to call, write and talk to city council members and let them know there will be a political consequence if the city council does not act to solve this problem.