BCC: Show me the money

 

The Board of County Commissioners begins budget workshop meetings this week for the fiscal year that begins October 1, 2016. Public meetings will be held Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday in Commission chambers beginning at 9:00 a.m. each day. At the conclusion of the workshops, Commissioners will establish a tentative millage rate for FY16-17.

 

From Ginny Sherlock, renowned local attorney, civic activist, and former Associated Press editor: The Board of County Commissioners begins budget workshop meetings this week for the fiscal year that begins October 1, 2016.

 

Public meetings will be held Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday in Commission chambers beginning at 9:00 a.m. each day. At the conclusion of the workshops, Commissioners will establish a tentative millage rate for FY16-17.

 

Commissioners will hear budget requests from the Constitutional officers – Property Appraiser, Tax Collector, Elections Supervisor, Sheriff, Court Clerk – and judicial administration beginning Monday.

 

The Agenda is very difficult to decipher, but it appears that the Sheriff will make a presentation at 10:00 a.m. on Monday and the Clerk of Courts will make a presentation at 9:00 a.m. on Tuesday. County department budget proposals will be considered as well, with the Grants in Aid Program pre-set for 1:30 p.m. on Tuesday. Other departments will be heard throughout the workshops, including Administration, Building, County Attorney, Engineering, Fire Rescue, General Services, Airport, Growth Management, Information Technology, Library, Parks and Recreation, Utilities and Solid Waste.

 

For detailed information on the proposed budget for the coming fiscal year, visit the County website’s financial information page:

 

https://www.martin.fl.us/content/financial-information

 

There will be a rivers conditions update at 2:30 p.m. on Tuesday.

 

The public will be heard at 9:05 a.m. on Monday and at 5:05 p.m. on Wednesday.

 

As the County grapples with the blue-green algae crisis that has created an economic crisis for dozens of small businesses that are dependent on environmentally sound waterways, Commissioners will grapple with requests for more taxpayer dollars to be directed to various governmental services, including increased wages for County employees. Staff is asking for about $850,000.00 in increased compensation, including adoption of a new employee classification system and raises of at least $1,000.00 or 2% of annual salary for all employees (except the highest paid employees, who would receive a lump sum payment equal to 2% rather than a pay increase).

 

The County has not proposed any compensation program for the businesses that have been harmed or ruined by the blue-green algae invasion. A program that offers loans to affected businesses has been established, but businesses must demonstrate a satisfactory credit history and ability to repay in order to qualify for the loans.

 

Commissioners should think of ways to help our water-dependent businesses survive the algae crisis by cutting back on questionable expenses – starting with commissioner and employee travel expenses, dues and subscription payments for commissioner and employee memberships in societies, associations and social organizations that provide little return on investment to taxpayers who foot the bill.

 

Commissioners do not hesitate to reimburse themselves and staff or to front payment by taxpayers for Chamber of Commerce luncheons and other expenses that employers and employees in the private sector pay out of their own pockets. Residents should urge commissioners to shift some of these questionable expenses from commission and staff to hard-hit business owners who need help to survive.

 

Commissioners should carefully examine budget requests and look for:

 

– Duplication (why do taxpayers pay private public relations consultants while simultaneously paying a full time public information officer to communicate with the media and the public?)

 

– Excess (why do taxpayers pay annual membership dues for multiple employees in a single department to join an association which is not required for the performance of their duties?)

 

– Return on Investment (why do taxpayers pay millions of dollars to vendors to provide low levels of service, like the Humane Society of the Treasure Coast that kills rather than saves many animals the County pays to protect?)

 

– Enforcement (why do taxpayers forego collection of hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines or agreed-upon payments in lieu of performance, like the $150,000 the Pitchford Landings developer agreed to pay after master site plan approval but the County never asked for?)

 

– Reserves (why are there always funds available in “reserves” to be transferred to other accounts to pay substantial unanticipated expenses at the same time taxpayers are told there are no funds for basic infrastructure repair or to assist local businesses devastated by blue-green algae?)

 

Take a look at the new “Financial Transparency” section of the Martin County Website at www.martin.fl.us if you want to examine specific aspects of County revenues and spending.

 

And let your commissioners know of your budget concerns by attending the budget workshops starting at 9:00 a.m. Monday in Commission Chambers or by e-mailing commissioners at sheard@martin.fl.us, efieldin@martin.fl.us, ascott@martin.fl.us, jhaddox@martin.fl.us, and dsmith@martin.fl.us, with copies to the County Administrator and County Attorney at tkryzda@martin.fl.us and mdurham@martin.fl.us.

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