Transparency-challenged Commission majority continues spending frenzy, taxpayers get the bill

 

From Ginny Sherlock, renowned local attorney, civic activist, and former Associated Press editor: The Martin County Board of County Commissioners will hold a public hearing at 5:00 p.m. on Tuesday to adopt resolutions approving the 2018/2019 budget for the fiscal year that begins October 1, 2018, hiking taxes to pay for increases in virtually every category of county spending.
A staff briefing on the use of glyphosate (Roundup) on County properties will be given at 1:30 p.m., with staff recommending continued application of the chemical on public property because it is “unlikely” to be a carcinogen.  
As has become the norm for the transparency-challenged Commission majority, two-thirds of the items on Tuesday’s agenda are relegated to the Consent Agenda and will not be discussed in public, including items that commit the County to spending millions of dollars.  
Fortunately, state law requires public hearings on the budget, so Commissioners will be required to publicly discuss resolutions adopting new millage rates and spending levels for County services, including Municipal Service Taxing Units for three of the five Commission Districts (residents in Commissioner Sarah Heard’s District 4 and Commissioner Ed Fielding’s District 2 will not have to pay MSTU fees) and an additional MSTU for Hutchinson Island (which is  higher than all the other districts combined), plus funds for fire-rescue services, parks, stormwater management, road maintenance, debt service, general operations and other expenses.  The agenda contains no back-up budget documentation.
The Consent Agenda includes requests for automatic, secret approval of more than $2.5 million for a new County phone system, construction of restrooms for the County golf course (and installation of a new ice machine), and “restoration” of roads and drainage structures in the Vista Salerno Neighborhood.  
The $752,000.00 Vista Salerno contract will be awarded to Ferreira Construction, a big campaign contributor to Lake Point booster Stacey Hetherington in her campaign against former Growth Management Director Joe Banfi to replace Commissioner Ed Fielding in District 2.
Also on the Consent Agenda is the “warrant list” which is required by state law to publicly disclose when and to whom public funds are paid.  The Martin County Clerk reports that $10,061,438.97 in taxpayer dollars were paid out between August 25 and September 10, 2018, but there is no disclosure of where the funds went or the purpose of the payments, despite the requirements of Sec. 136.06, Florida Statutes, that the payee and the purpose of payment for all checks (warrants) drawn on public accounts (except for School District accounts) must be reported to the Board of County Commissioners.
Many of the public dollars that are spent each week are for employee salaries and benefits. Commissioners are being asked – without disclosure of any details – to approve requests on Tuesday to increase paid time off compensation and hourly wages for non-union employees to provide “equity” for employees who don’t pay union dues based on increases that were negotiated by unionized employees.
The staff will present an item on glyphosate at 1:30 p.m., recommending that the County continue to use the hazardous chemical on public properties because, while there have been studies that conclude that glyphosate “is probably” a cause of cancer, some agencies have issued reports finding it “unlikely” that glyphosate is hazardous to humans.
Absent definitive scientific findings that confirm that exposure to glyphosate causes cancer, staff appears to be adopting the philosophy: When in doubt, pump potentially poisonous chemicals on public lands.
In other matters on Tuesday’s agenda:
– Requests to accept grants to facilitate still more government spending will be heard at 10:00 a.m., including grants that will require still more County taxpayer funds to be spent for various projects and programs.
– Staff is asking the Commission to transmit to state reviewers a revised Preamble to the Comprehensive Growth Management Plan.  The proposed new preamble eliminates “quality of life” as a goal of land development regulations, specifically striking out existing language that says: “Protection of the quality of life and the environment in Martin County is a critical factor in economic growth and sustainability.”  The revised Preamble encourages review of “economic development proposals” without regard for environmental or quality of life objectives for residents.  The revisions promote more frequent and less cumbersome procedures to make it quicker and easier to amend the Comprehensive Plan that protects the Martin County Difference.
Download or view Tuesday’s agenda items at:
Click on the Agenda for the meeting date and select items from the .pdf file for viewing.  The Agenda is very challenging to navigate and not at all citizen-friendly. Considerable time, patience and determination are required to review agenda materials.
Please try to attend the meeting at 9:00 a.m. Tuesday at the Administration Center, 2401 SE Monterey Road, Stuart, to express your views on these or other issues or e-mail commissioners at sheard@martin.fl.usefieldin@martin.fl.ushjenkins@martin.fl.useciampi@martin.fl.us, and dsmith@martin.fl.us, with copies to the County Administrator and the County Attorney at tkryzda@martin.fl.us and swoods@martin.fl.us.

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