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Quarterly Luncheon - July 11- Sarah Heard Video

mctax logo 2017
Martin County Taxpayers Association
 
Quarterly Luncheon

July 11 • 12:00 p.m.

Sandhill Cove • 1500 S.W. Capri • Palm City • FL 34990

Martin County’s proposed one cent $ales tax

penny
sarah heardGuest Speaker:
Comm. Sarah Heard

Members $25
Non-Members $30

Reservation must be paid in advance by July 6, 2017

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or Mail to MCTA PO Box 741
Stuart, Fl 34995

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mctax logo 2017
Martin County Taxpayers Association
 

April 17, 2017

The Honorable Doug Smith, Chairman
Martin County Board of County Commissioners 2401 SE Monterey Road
Stuart, FL 34996

Re: Proposed additional one cent sales tax

Dear Chairman Smith:

For over 60 years the Martin County Taxpayer's Association has been the fair, responsible and espected watchdog of government spending and funding in Martin County.  A part of that heritage has been a long-term positive relationship between our organization and the County Commission.  We offer our recommendations and suggestions as to the proposed additional one cent sales tax for Martin County.

Without endorsing or opposing the proposed additional sales tax we are very concerned that the referendum will be presented in an off year, special election. We question the cost of this special election, the date chosen and the chance for success given the short time allowed for public "education" on this issue.

Without careful restrictions placed on the use of the additional tax we cannot determine the need for this additional tax and will have trouble supporting it. We think the use of the money needs to be restricted to only road improvements, traffic signal coordination, bridge repair and replacement, public drainage issues, water quality improvements and septic to sewer conversion. There are many amenities that are nice to have but should not be funded from general sales tax; they should be funded, if at all, by private donation and user fees, not additional sales.

With the FPL surcharge remaining in place for nearly the next thirty years we have to question whether a future Commission will keep your pledge to roll back these charges. We note that Indian River County has imposed additional sales tax while maintaining a 5.9% surcharge. We recommend that the Board delay final decisions on this proposal. Thank you for your consideration. Please know that you are welcome to discuss this with our Board.

Sincerely,

Thomas Kenny III
President

A S S E S S M E N T

A newsletter published by the Martin County Taxpayers Association

Volume XVI Issue 3 - February 2017

MCTA Newsletter

Dear Martin County Taxpayer:

Congressman Brian Mast to speak at MCTA Annual Dinner

brian mastThe MCTA is honored to have Congressman Brian Mast speak at their annual dinner to be held Feb. 22nd at Lost Lake Golf Club in Hobe Sound. Congressman Mast is a former US Army Veteran who now serves as the US Representative of Florida’s 18th congressional district, which includes St. Lucie, Martin, and a portion of Palm Beach County. In 2016 he graduated from Harvard University Extension School with an ALB. To register for this event, please visit our website mctaxpayers.org. RSVP by Feb 15th since seating is limited.

Legislative Delegation - January 5th
The delegation was chaired by the president of the State Senate, Joe Negron. Representatives Gayle Harrell and MaryLynn Magar made up the remainder of the delegation. The delegation presents opportunities for agencies, governments and a variety of other organizations to speak directly to their representatives.

Representatives from Indiantown and Hobe Sound asked the delegation to sponsor bills allowing the local communities to vote on the idea of incorporation. The delegation voted unanimously to sponsor the bills which are required before the vote within the respective geographical areas can take place. If passed by the residents in those areas, Hobe Sound and Indiantown would become two new municipalities.

The MCTA thanked the delegation for their genuine dedication to our area and asked that they continue to pursue strategies that would improve the quantity and quality of the discharges from Lake Okeechobee. Additionally, we also asked the delegation to get engaged, wherever possible, to lessen the impact of All Aboard Florida’s plan to provide high-speed passenger rail service and increased freight traffic through our area.

MCTA Begins Budget Review for 2018
Your taxpayers association will once again form a committee to review Martin County’s budget for 2018. To see last year’s review please visit our website and click on MCTA in the news. We want to thank last year’s committee members, Mark Brechbill, Lisa Bebout, Diane McKechnie, Nick Amaro and Glenn Zillhardt. These committee members dedicated many hours, and as a result, the recommendations suggested ultimately found their way to the Stuart News and were reported Sept. 25th 2016. If you would like to participate on this committee please let us know via e-mail @ This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

All Aboard Florida or All About Freight (Depending on your viewpoint)
MCTA continues to oppose and monitor the All Aboard Florida Project. Most recently, a High-Speed Passenger Rail Bill (HB 269 / SB 386) is being filed by Senator Debbie Mayfield (R) Vero Beach and the house version is supported by Republican House members MaryLynn Magar of Tequesta, Gayle Harrell of Stuart and Erin Grall of Vero Beach. As outlined by Representative Magar, this legislation not only protects Floridians from the potential dangers of high-speed trains by ensuring the appropriate safety technology is in place, but also protects their tax dollars by ensuring the appropriate entity pays for those upgrades. It provides powers and duties of the Dept. of Transportation, and also provides minimum safety standards and requires compliance with federal laws and regulations. Railroad companies will solely be responsible to construct, improve and maintain the rail corridor which will take the burden off local governments and the state.

Martin County Administrator, Taryn Kryzda, recently submitted a guest column in the Stuart News on Jan. 12th and vows the County will continue to fight. Ms. Kryzda stated that as a result of the county’s litigation, a federal judge found that AAF Florida “had no likely ability to fund and construct the West Palm Beach to Orlando phase without taxpayer subsidies.” She also notes the county’s recent study concluded that taxpayers could be on the tab for upgrade and maintenance costs that may total $13.5 million in 2020 and climb over $31 million by 2030. Because of the county litigation, All Aboard Florida and the DOT abandoned a $1.75 billion taxpayer subsidized bond allocation and instead went to Plan B — a recently conceived “new” $600 million taxpayer-subsidized bond allocation that will purportedly finance only the Miami-to-West Palm Beach phase of the project.

While the West Palm Beach to the Miami segment is moving forward, the completion of our portion of the project still faces many challenges due primarily to our strong opposition through the legal system and the court of public opinion. The burden to taxpayers is not the only reason to oppose this project, however it is one of the issues that greatly concern us. This is why we support the county’s legal battle against All Aboard Florida/Brightline.

MCTA Membership
If you are a member of the Martin County Taxpayers Association, great. If you know someone who would be interested in our mission, please pass along this newsletter and our website address, or like us on Facebook.


Thank You!

The Martin County Taxpayers’ Association is a Not for Profit Corporation
President: Thomas Kenny III, Vice President: Diane McKechnie, Secretary: Richard Geisinger, Treasurer: William Schmidt

Directors: Sandy Brownlow, David Collier, Ike Crumpler, Thomas Fogt, Darlene Fuggetta, Rick Hartman, Don Pickard, KC Ingram Traylor, Frank Wacha



mctax logo 2017
Martin County Taxpayers Association
 

MCTA Lake Point

The Martin County Taxpayer Association (MCTA) has been monitoring county government for 65 years. Our goal has always been to make sure your tax dollars are used most effectively and there is a reasonable return on your investment in our county government. We analyze whether the expenditures focus on the most important needs or are they wasteful. We look at whether monies spent could be used for more appropriate purposes. We have many needs in Martin County and limited revenues, so we all have to be diligent and make sure our county commissioners are making the best choices. We also have to look at decisions affecting whether and how the county can obtain additional revenues and whether we are making reasonable decisions on the revenue side. For purpose of this column, let’s look at one of those expenditures, legal costs.

Lake Point, a sand and rock mine designed to become a future storm water treatment area to be deeded to government after twenty years of operation, sued Martin County for interference with their contract. They charged that some Commissioners had used their personal computers and electronic devices to communicate about their interests and asked the Court to allow access to those devices for purposes of discovery. After years of legal maneuvers the Court appointed an Arbitrator to step in to make recommendations to the parties. The Arbitrator found that the County Commissioners had abused required public records laws and demonstrated a pattern of lack of candor regarding those records and found the County liable for payment of attorney fees incurred by Lake Point.

The Board of County Commission has agreed to pay attorney fees of over $370,000, our money, to settle this part of the lawsuit over how some Commissioners used their personal and public emails. The County issued a press release on February 25th saying, "By doing so, Martin County decided to avoid further protracted litigation over this public records claim and the threat of greater attorney fees and costs on such claims. Instead, Martin County believes that those resources would be better served improving its existing policies concerning the public's access to "public records" under Florida Law."

While we have to agree with the decision to accept the Court appointed Arbitrator's decision, we consider having to pay those fees a blatant waste of tax dollars; our tax dollars. We are concerned with the recent growth of expenditures related to law suits. MCTA has suggested a policy of "negotiate, mediate before you litigate". We feel our hard earned tax dollars should be better spent on improvement rather than law suits. We understand the need to protect the County and enforce fair rules, but did we really need to get into this position where we are forced to pay unnecessary legal fees?

Before taking positions, changing regulations or amending long standing policy, the County Commission must consider the consequences. Our citizens have rights, property rights guaranteed by our State and Federal Constitutions. Abusing those rights for political purpose will always be costly.

Let us refocus our County's efforts toward public safety, infrastructure improvements, provision of libraries, parks and health facilities and economic prosperity. The Martin County Taxpayers Association and its many members pledge our help toward supporting those efforts and achieving those goals.

Wasting our money on law suits is not an efficient, useful or effective use of tax dollars.

Thomas Kenny III
MCTA President
Martin County - What is the Future

It appears that the Martin County Commission has gotten off to an ambitious start. In their first meetings the commissioners outlined their vision of the county and what challenges they expect to tackle.

Capital Improvement projects such as the Indian River Drive “Septic to Sewer” program, the “Mooring Fields” in Jensen Beach and Pt. Salerno, the “Bridge Road Project”, the “Mapp Road Project”, “Fire/Rescue Training Facility”, “Veterans Bus Program”, ‘Municipal Golf Course Project”, “Data Center Project” and the “Customs Facility Project” are all on the radar.

These projects have all been discussed in the past and for a variety of reasons had been voted down or delayed.

The Indian River Drive Septic to Sewer program has been engineered and the project will seek funds from outside the county in the form of grants, loans, etc. Time will tell, how much, and if any of these resources will be available to supplement the county’s resources. This is an important step environmentally for our community.

Mooring Fields in Jensen Beach and Port Salerno would provide fixed mooring facilities in both geographical areas. According to the county, these mooring fields would provide specific geographical areas for boats to be legally moored. The county plans on applying to Florida Inland Navigation District for funds to partially or entirely pay for these facilities.

The Bridge Road Project is located in Hobe Sound primarily along Bridge Road. The project includes locating power lines underground, providing on-street parking, and specific drainage improvements. This will be funded with CRA funds that have been or will be collected from TIF monies.

The Mapp Road Project has also been engineered. It includes certain road improvements, drainage improvements, sidewalks, and extensions of water and sewer lines. This project seeks to improve Mapp Road from Martin Downs Blvd. to SR #714. Funds again will be generated through the CRA’s TIF funds as well as potential grant funds.

The Fire/Rescue training facility was planned originally in 2011 and has been resurrected by the commission for reconsideration. Funding would need to be identified for this project. Additionally, the county should include the Stuart Fire and Police departments as well as Martin County Sheriff’s department in their discussions for this facility.

Veterans Bus Program is in need of an additional bus and the program is attempting to raise funds for replacement of some of the vehicles. This funding is being handled through the Veterans Council.
The Martin County Golf Course management was taken over by the county and the county has made improvements in the courses and continues to study the overall development as well as replacing some of the amenities. Additional metrics will be considered to assist with the ongoing maintenance and operation. The golf course facility is currently operating at a loss.

The Data Center was once planned for construction off the airport property. It has been re-prioritized and the commission is considering locating the facility on the airport grounds.

The Customs Facility at Witham Field was previously approved with numerous caveats and eventually failed to pass at the commission level. The previous caveats required that the facility would be constructed by grant funds and that the day to day operations would not be a burden to the county. It appears that the commission is resurrecting this project along with a review of the methods of funding the facility.

MCTA is not debating the quality of these projects, however, these projects all have costs associated with them. It has been stated that our capital improvements projects are currently in arrears approximately $250 million. The MCTA believes that the projects that have been suggested should be prioritized and that funding should be identified. Using reserves does not seem to be a prudent method of funding these projects. Additionally, the 2017 budget has been approved and millages have been put in place to accommodate the current approved budget. In other words, if there is a requirement for additional funds for 2017 it would be prudent to reduce costs internally. Reducing outside legal fees for example could be a cost saving consideration as well as settling lawsuits that are not beneficial for the county. Also, the county could incentivize staff to minimize internal and external bureaucracy.
mctax logo 2017
Martin County Taxpayers Association
 

2017 Report on the State of the Martin County Taxpayers Association.

First may I say Thank You! For your continued support of the Martin County Taxpayers Association, MCTA.  Without your support  we have no real reason to exist.  We are a totally volunteer organization that relies on its members for research,

participation and direction on positions taken.  We encourage all of our members to let their Board know what is important to them, voice their positions on issues and suggest topics that need investigation. Again, we are volunteers and rely on our members and friends to participate, please help.

MCTA was founded in the early 1950’s, making it the oldest organization of its type in the State, perhaps the entire Country. The primary objectives of the organization are:
  1. To monitor and review all fiscal and tax matters affecting Martin County.
  2. To engage public officials, community leaders and private sector organizations that may influence the economy and efficiency of the County of Martin, the School District, municipalities and other taxing authorities that impact taxes and the financial resources of the County.
  3. To improve, extend and establish a foundation of general tax programs that are effective cost efficient and maximize the  return on investment of taxpayer dollars.   Establish a culture and environment conducive to the preservation of tax dollars and taxpayers interests.
  4. To develop and communicate a public information program on county, state and federal leveltax policies, processes any tax issues using a variety ofmultimedia approaches and public relations strategies.
  5. To invite, or join coalitions of organizations in participating in efforts to inform, educate as well as influence tax and other fiscal policies that impact Martin County taxpayers.
As we move deeper into 2017, our 65th year, we find the organization financially healthy and robust.  Our membership continues to grow and we are looking forward to even stronger membership in our future.  We enjoy a good working relationship with our local governments, Martin County, Martin County School District, the City of Stuart and the Town of Jupiter Island.  We have established a working website, mctaxpayers.org and now feature a Facebook account, like us on facebook.com/MartinCoTaxpayersAssoc.  We established an "over-sight" and observation committee that attend County, School District and City meetings; look for their reports in future newsletters.  We have a working communication committee that sends periodic reports to our members, writes op-ed articles for publication, forwards communication from other groups and in general strives to keep our members informed of current events and issues.

We look forward to participating in the formation of local budgets, offering suggestions and ideas for a better Martin County and working with you.  We hope to work toward efficient taxing policies, reduced government spending, a balanced and funded Capital Improvement Plan, fair and open employment contracts with public employees and improved "customer service" for all taxpayers. We support efforts to eliminate impacts of the proposed All aboard Florida train and "negotiate before we litigate" policy.  We want an open and fair working relationship between all local governments.  We want a healthy, vigorous local economy, jobs for our citizens and, we want all of our citizens to be able to live in safe, affordable neighborhoods.  We continue to support financially feasible and science backed solutions to stop the pollution of our rivers and estuaries.

Thank you!

Tom Kenny, President, MCTA

Commissioners need to get fiscal house in order

The election is over, and the new incoming Martin County commissioners have their work cut out for them. 

Simply getting up to speed with the ongoing litigation is a job in its own right. Among the cases: Lake Point, All Aboard Florida, Midbrook, King Ranch, Zeus Park and Pitchford Landing.

Understanding the budgetary process and priorities is paramount. The Martin County Tuxpayer Association believes the county must begin to manage its escalating expenditures. 

Our recent study shows the county population has grown approximately 18 percent over the past 15 years while government expenditures have in­creased approximately 60 percent for the same period.

There are many reasons for this, but the county has approximately a $250 million capital shortfall and should look at ways to generate revenue ( other than ad valorem increases).

Recently, there has been an effort to reduce this shortfall through the Florida Power & Light Franchise Fee, allocating money away from the community rede­velopment areas and economic devel­opment fund, as well as taking money from the health care reserve fund. 

Although these are short-term sourc­es ofrevenue, the Martin County Tax­payers Association believes these reallo­cations are not healthy in the long run and the county should develop strategies that manage this shortfall without using short-term strategies.

Taking money away from the CRAs and economic development fund is counterproductive. At the end of the day,these redevelopment areas will produce more tax revenue for the county.

If the county demonstrates some discipline in its spending, there is a pos­sibility that a sales tax could be success­fully passed to tackle the capital short­fall. However, the taxpayers want a guarantee that the money would be used for capital expenditures and they also want to see conservative fiscal policies developed at the board level.

Martin County has been a leader in developing a comprehensive plan that allows the county to have local control over its development and economic future. The plan provides a great deal of specificity relative to how, and in what manner, the taxpayers of Martin County would like to see their community grow.

However, there is no long-term plan that converts this comprehensive growth plan into specific financial needs and costs. In other words, what are the most effective methods for funding our county's future vision?

This plan should look out over a mini­mum of 25 years and suggest methodolo­gies to create a more diversified tax base. The Martin County Taxpayers Association has repeatedly stated that the county needs a more diversified tax base, and we believe such a study would substantiate this.

Martin County is a great place to live and raise a family. However, it is becom­ing a community where only the wealthy can afford to live. Hopefully, our leaders will study ways to keep our expenses down while continuing to protect our quality of life.

Richard Geisinger is communications chair for the Martin County Taxpayers Association.

Treasure Coast Newspapers Saturday, October 1, 2016 9