Martin County Commissioner Sarah Heard provides summary of BCC budget workshops

 

 

Martin County Commissioner Sarah Heard (Source: martin.fl.us)

On July 17 and 18, the Martin County Board of County Commissioners (BCC) held their budget workshops for the Fiscal Year 2018 (FY18), which begins on October 1, 2017.  The millage rate set on July 18 will be finally adopted in late September.  At that time, the BCC may choose to lower the millage rate, but they cannot raise it.

The countywide millage is set at 6.3888 for the general fund.  Smith, Ciampi, and Jenkins voted in favor.  Fielding and Heard opposed.  This millage is 1.78% higher than the FY17 budget.

All property owners in Districts 2, 3, and 5 (Smith, Ciampi, and Jenkins) will pay a slightly higher tax rate.  Smith, Ciampi, and Jenkins chose to levy an additional tax on their property owners, whose proceeds can only be spent in the districts in which they were levied.  Fielding and Heard did not levy an additional tax for their district taxpayers.

There is a 6.22% increase in taxable values from 2017, which equals $10.3 million.  Administrator Taryn Kryzda added in $3 million more, so $13.3 million more than raised in 2017.  Substantial increases include:

$2.3 million more for the sheriff

$2.2 million more for fire rescue overtime and raises

$1.4 million more for the Community Redevelopment Areas (CRAs)

$201,000 more for the Business Development Board

$183,000 more for the Humane Society (proposed 5 year contract starts out at $745,000 in 2018, with significant increases in each succeeding year)

The BCC majority added 20 new full time employees, returning Martin County staffing levels to 2006-2007 levels.

$850,000 was added to the Parks Department budget for maintenance.  Three of the biggest complaints we hear from our residents are dissatisfaction with the mowing and maintenance and the lack of cleanliness of the restrooms in our parks.

A big part of our budget is the inclusion of our Capital Improvement Plan (CIP).  The 2018 CIP is $15 million higher than the 2017 CIP.

Fire Rescue operations budget is $36.5 million.  Sheriff operations budget is $63 million.  Add on the fire rescue and sheriff capital projects in 2018, and public safety alone totals 61.5% of your ad valorem taxes – $107 million.

We are left with 38% for everything else – the rest of the constitutional offices, parks, engineering, libraries, roads, buildings, stormwater, administration, Information Technology, attorneys, veterans services, social services, etc.

 

The most controversial discussion during the budget workshop centered on the Community Development Department, which has oversight of the 7 county CRAs.  Smith, Ciampi, and Jenkins have often attributed their election successes to their strong support for the CRAs.  Shortly after their elections, this BCC majority voted to increase the collection of Tax Increment Financing (TIF) in the CRAs from 50% to 75%.

It is important to note that property owners in the CRAs do not pay any additional taxes or assessments.  But, a significant portion of their county taxes are retained to be utilized for goods and services within the CRA boundaries.

In 2018, $2,903,000 of the ad valorem collected will be dedicated to the CRAs.

Since 2002, $31,352,460 has been dedicated to the CRAs.

Of course, other funding sources have been and will be added to the TIF funding, too.

The 7 CRAs (Port Salerno, Indiantown, Hobe Sound, Palm City, Rio, Jensen Beach, and Golden Gate) were all created by the BCC in the 2000 to 2002 timeframe.  Their boundaries are varied and arbitrary.  The development rules are different in the CRAs, more relaxed, for the intended purpose of encouraging redevelopment in these older areas.

Smith voted against the budget for the department that manages the CRAs.  When pressed by Ciampi and Jenkins to explain his surprising vote, Smith stated that the CRAs are not working, and they have not been working for the 17 years that he has been in office.  In his opinion that they are bogged down in the Martin County bureaucracy.

When Smith was asked what he wants to change, he proposes a separate CRA, with all new codes, all new development standards, and an all new Comprehensive Plan.  He wants an entirely separate department with an independent director in charge of growth management inside the CRAs.

Smith did not elaborate on the changes he seeks but he has been a strong advocate for greater densities and intensities of use, relaxation of parking rules, mixed use, smaller setbacks from roads, and reduced setbacks for shoreline protections.

Jenkins and Ciampi said that they may agree with some of the things Smith wants, but neither is ready to commit to an independent CRA this year.  Jenkins and Ciampi said that they are very satisfied with their projects’ progress.  They want to keep the CRAs and the department that manages them going.

Eventually, the CRA budget was approved so that projects can continue to be funded.  Now that Smith’s plans have been made public, and the commission majority has signaled its willingness to change the rules, we need to remain vigilant to make sure that our Martin County Comprehensive Plan isn’t sacked.  Once the domino effect begins, it is very difficult to stop.

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