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Martin County School Board Makes Tough Choices 12.07.16

The Martin County Taxpayers Association applauds the recent efforts of the School Board to negotiate a reasonable settlement with the district. The former agreement with the district was unsustainable.

It turns out that the retirement packages were becoming more and more expensive and taking precious dollars out of the operating funds. These increases are driven largely by increased health care costs. The historical method of using a “pay as you go” system to meet retiree costs, where current revenues pay for current costs, was putting a huge burden on operational costs. Simply put, the current revenues have been outpaced by large increases in current costs. Martin County School District currently has in excess of $180 million in these types of liabilities and much of it is unfunded.

The Martin County School Board has been debating the issue of increased costs of retire health care benefits for over a year. These retiree health benefits are costing the district approximately $2.5 million per year and increasing each year.

The real question was, how does the board balance the needs of the retirees with the needs of the current work force. In other words, how could they create a sustainable system that protects both the retirees and the current employees.

To answer that question here is an outline of the compromise.

Retirees under the age of 65 will receive the benefits at the same rate provided to current employees.

Medicare eligible retirees will receive a Health Insurance Subsidy of $5.00 per year of service, up to $150.00. This essentially mirrors the benefit provided by the Florida Retirement System (FRS). By way of example: a retiree with 30 years of service will receive $150.00 per month from the state FRS and $150.00 from the Martin County School Board.

Retirees will continue to be eligible to participate in the current PPO plan, but will be responsible for any amount above their combined contributions from the FRS and MCSB.

Retirees will also have the option of using their Health Insurance Subsidy to purchase an individual supplement plan or plans that meet their specific health needs.

These changes will save the school district nearly $1,000,000 annually.

We are all aware that the so-called “baby boomers” are nearing retirement and this will put even more pressure on the system. Much like Social Security, you cannot have more people taking out than paying in.

Teachers are some of the most valuable assets we have in our community and we believe they should be compensated for their hard work, and as such, we a pleased that they were able to get a raise in their salaries. However, whenever we speak of compensation with any employees we must speak of salaries and benefits, that represents total compensation.

Again, we applaud the outcome of these negotiations. We as a county or school district must strive to set up sustainable models and stop kicking the can down the road.
What is the CRA Challenge? 06.22.16

CRA (An acronym for Community Redevelopment Area) is a dependent special district established pursuant to State law by local government. CRA’s are specifically described geographic areas throughout the county that have been targeted for redevelopment. Most of the areas have some sort of challenges that have negatively affected property values in their respective areas. Lack of improvements such as drainage, utilities, sidewalks, roads, etc. are some of the issues that may cause an area to be designated a CRA.

Typically, the CRA’s have received funds through grants and other general revenues that have been invested in these areas to overcome some of the challenges that have been identified in each area. When those improvements have been built and when values begin to increase that increase in tax revenue can then be reinvested back into the areas for greater returns.

The best example of a successful CRA in the area is the City of Stuart. Not long ago the downtown area was full of vacant empty spaces. The City obtained a grant and created a CRA that provided the necessary infrastructure to stimulate the redevelopment of downtown. This contributed to the success of the Lyric Theatre and stimulated others to open retail shops that are to this day unique to the area. Today we believe that the downtown area is the “Jewel” of Martin County producing tax revenue and jobs that were absent before the implementation of the CRA. Recently the grant and TIF funding directed at Colorado Av. has shown an instant rejuvenation of the surrounding properties.

We bring up this example because we believe the use of CRA’s are an important component of our governance in the county and believe the end result produces better communities as well as additional revenue through increased property values and sales tax. County’s heritage is seen in its historic downtowns and should be restored and preserved for the future.

CRA’s receive about 10 additional points from the state when applying for Community Development Block Grants. This represents approximately 10% of the points available which translates into an enhanced probability to receive the funds. Every CRA in the county is in the urban service area and they all meet the comprehensive plan guidelines.

There are currently 7 CRA’s throughout Martin County and all of them have had improvements of some sort that have added value to their particular areas. All of the CRA’s have had local input and have been driven by their respective communities.

Currently there are discussions at the county level concerning the relevance of the CRA’s and the use of the additional revenues produced by those CRA’s (These are increased tax revenues as a result of the capital improvements made in the CRA itself). When the CRA’s were formed 95% of the additional tax revenue were reinvested back into the CRA’s. Currently the county has reduced that to less than 50%.

One of the most critical benefits of the CRA’s is local decision making. NAC boards are appointed by the commission and they have the responsibility to recommend improvements that are particular to that CRA. Local taxpayers should know best which improvements would be best suited for their particular CRA.

There are additional concerns if the CRA’s are collapsed. Currently there are rumors about certain geographic areas forming their own municipalities. This is primarily due to the perception that there is a lack of attention given to them by the county. If the county decides to abolish the CRA’s this will provide more ammunition for these areas to split and form their own governments. At the end of the day, this simply adds more layers of government and increased costs to the taxpayers that possibly could be avoided.

The MCTA supports the use of CRA’s at the county level and believes that the creation and development of the CRA’s will (in the long run) create a better Martin County and produce greater tax revenues for all of us.
Martin County Taxpayers Association
Guest Column, Stuart News
December 16, 2014

20 October 24, 2014

Article on MCTA – Who We Are and What We Do
We in the Martin County Taxpayers Association (MCTA) are often complimented on the articles we publish in the Stuart News. But, many readers do not really know who we are and what we do. Therefore, let me take this opportunity to tell you about our association and provide a recap of some of our activities during 2014.

The MCTA is the oldest taxpayers’ organization in Florida. We are a 501C-3 nonprofit organization founded in 1950 by a small group of dedicated citizens who had a keen desire to represent the interests of the taxpayers of Martin County. Over the next 64 years, the association grew in many ways that are relatively unknown to the public at large. For example:

The MCTA now has a board of 15 members with a wide diversity of expertise and experience in many different professions. Our board includes individuals both actively employed and retired from the legal profession, the US armed forces, the financial investment community, the environmental community, human resource management, real estate and education. These diversified backgrounds result in basically conservative, but socially conscientious policy decisions. We are also proud of our non-partisan stance to refrain from taking political positions, and not to endorse candidates for public office.

As evidenced by the numerous contacts we receive, the articles we publish in “In Your Corner” is one of the most valued services we provide Our website, available on the internet at includes several years of articles on a wide variety of subjects that are written to inform County taxpayers about key financial issues. In addition to our articles, we published position papers in 2014 on topics such as reform of the Florida Retirement System, homeowner’s insurance rates, the proposed sales tax, Amendment One, All Aboard Florida (AAF) and more. In essence, we believe we provide our members more than just our newspaper articles.

We also work directly with key staff officials such as the Superintendent of Schools, the County Administrator and the City Manager. We make it a point to try to constructively critique the decisions of both the local and state governments and our commentaries are intended to provide “guidance and an informative education” for our members and the taxpayers of Martin County. During 2014 through our new community outreach program, we conducted 4 public forums on Amendment One; the proposed increase in the County sales tax; the Children’s Services Council and All Aboard Florida.

Other issues where we commented in person and/or in writing before the Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) was on the proposed Amendment One proposal, Children’s Services Council, increased millage rate and proposed sales tax. Additionally we sent correspondence to key officials in the Florida legislature and the Governor on pension reform and water storage to preserve our Lagoon. We also met individually with the District School Board at their request, and advised them on ways to improve government, how to cut costs and encouraged them to build a cohesive leadership group and to work toward the creation of a more cooperative and deliberative body. We have also advised the BOCC and the Martin County School District (MCSD) Board on various union contract negotiation matters and we volunteered to coordinate a study of the potential for a merger of the Stuart and the County’s Fire and Rescue Departments.

In sum, the MCTA believes that there is strength in numbers and we encourage our readers to join us in representing the interests of all taxpayers by joining our association. We are also in need of those who may be interested in serving on one of our standing committees or on our board of directors. If you are interested please contact us at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. We can use your help and support.


You are invited to the Water and Land Legacy Amendment Forum, April 16th, 2:00 PM

Indian Riverside Park, Frances Langford Bldg, 2nd Floor

See "Current Events" for Speakers

Ronald C. Pilenzo, PhD., SPHR., CEO (ret.)(Oct. 7, 1928- July 28, 2015)

Ronald Pilenzo Profile shot

Ronald (Ron) C. Pilenzo of Hobe Sound, FL passed away unexpectedly on the early morning of July 28, 2015 at the age of 86.  Born to Angelo and Mary Pilenzo on October 7th 1928, he was the loving and devoted husband of Lorna Pilenzo, his wife of almost 60 years.

Following his graduation from Pershing High School, Ronald enlisted in the U.S. Air Force during the Korean War.  He served with some distinction before being honorably discharged at the rank of Staff Sergeant. While working full-time at his nascent personnel career, he attended night school for 10 years - - first earning a Bachelor of Arts degree in Economics and Industrial Relations, and then his MBA from the University of Detroit.  At the age of 78 Mr. Pilenzo completed his PHD in International Business Administration.
Ronald Pilenzo had a distinguished career in human resources spanning 44 years, including 23 years with several Fortune 200 companies, and management consulting.  He was appointed President of the Society for Human Resource Management (formerly The American Society for Personnel Administration) in 1980 and retired from this position in 1991.  Later that year, he was named President of the International Division of Personnel Decisions International.

Mr. Pilenzo served as an Adjunct Professor on the faculty of the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana in the Institute of Labor and Industrial Relations. He also taught at George Mason University in its department of Human Resources Management Studies, and Florida Atlantic University in its Department of Management and International Business and Entrepreneurship.  
Ron Pilenzo had been a keynote speaker in conferences in 27 countries and authored numerous articles in publications such as the Wall Street Journal, Business Week, Forbes and Time magazine.  Just prior to his passing he had submitted articles for publication that will be printed in several HR publications later this year. (Click here to read)

Mr. Pilenzo had served on boards of several not-for-profit organizations.  Even in retirement, he worked diligently with the Executive Service Corps to assist many other local non-profits and, of course, he also held the position of Vice President for the Martin County Taxpayers Association.  In addition to many awards and accolades, Mr. Pilenzo received the WFPMA Award (formerly Georges Petitpas Memorial Award) which recognizes individuals who have made exemplary contributions to the profession and practice of Human Resource Management and whose spirit and dedication have been inspirational to others.

In addition to his beloved wife Lorna, he is survived by his 2 children and their spouses: Paula Pilenzo Tommins and William R. Tommins of Fairfield CT; Christopher A. Pilenza and Carrie Pilenza of Hobe Sound, FL.; his two granddaughters: Madeleine and Mia Tommins; and, his sister: Joan and her husband, Clive Summers, of Hobe Sound, FL.
Arrangements are being made by Aycock Funeral Homes in Stuart, FL.  The Family will welcome friends on Thursday August 6 from 5:00 pm – 8:00 pm at the Forest Hills Young & Prill Chapel located at 6801 SE Federal Hwy in Stuart, FL 34997A Mass of Christian Burial will be offered on Friday August 7 at 10:30 am at St. Christopher’s Catholic Church 12001 SE Federal Highway Hobe Sound, FL 33455.

While Ron Pilenzo appreciated flowers; he would prefer donations to his memorial fund.  This fund will go towards granting an educational scholarship to a worthy student seeking to study Human Resources.  If anyone desires to send both, his family would like to encourage all to consider a more minimalist arrangement in order to favor the donation to the fund so that his legacy of humane human resources lives on.

More online at

mcfrMarch 29, 2014--For years the Martin County Taxpayers Association has been encouraging Martin County Fire Rescue and the city of Stuart Fire Rescue to consolidate. The two primary objectives of consolidation would be to save taxpayers money while maintaining the level of service taxpayers expect.

The taxpayers association recently volunteered to act as a facilitator between the county and city to determine if consolidation would produce financial savings for taxpayers. Within the relatively short period allotted for this study, it became apparent the two independent departments have duplicity of locations, management and staff. The analysis indicates there is only one station that would be affected in a potential consolidation.

April 12, 2014--natural resources

In November, voters statewide will be asked to approve Amendment No. 1 to the constitution, which will set aside funding for purchasing environmentally sensitive land to protect water resources and wildlife habitat. Backers have obtained more than the number of required signatures, according to Manley Fuller, president of the Florida Wildlife Federation, part of a coalition of environmental groups backing the measure.

As of January, more than 683,000 signatures have been obtained from 14 districts.

MCBOCCMarch 14, 2014--Over the past several years, the Martin County Taxpayers Association has prodded Martin County government to find ways to be more productive and efficient in the services it provides to the taxpayers. We believe that our government has not yet maximized the use of the resources given to them. By comparison, here’s why.

In a report produced by the Swedish government in 2013, it articulated five core goals it believes will “grow and renew their economy.” We believe these same goals apply to Martin County. The following are the goals articulated in the Swedish study that we recommend as challenges to Martin County during the next 5-10 years.

Goal 1: Increase productivity in the public sector. The Swedish government set a goal of improving productivity by 25 percent to 30 percent over the next 10 years. While we cannot and should not set goals for the county, we do believe that the leadership of the county should determine similar goals in collaboration with the county administrator and the superintendent of schools. Calls for improvement in the Swedish report are in the areas of the “quality of products and services, consolidation of structure in public administration and the establishment of a center of excellence for public procurement.”

Goal 2: Improve the growth in local services through deregulation and regulatory reform. This is the easiest target, but the most difficult to achieve. But, delivering high quality services and reducing cost lessens the burden on taxpayers, expands the business community and the tax base and opens the door to reducing the bureaucracy needed to administer it. The Swedish report states “the nation (substitute county) should consider systematically eliminating growth-inhibiting regulations; industry by industry though a joint effort of politician, employers and trade unions.” The county could do the same if there is the political will to do so.

Goal 3: Sustain growth through increased innovation and productivity. The will to innovate must be precipitated by an enlightened leadership as well as the desire of employees to make it happen. Studies show that new ideas and ways to increase productivity only come from those who ask for it and by those who are challenged to deliver. Studies in the United States show that in most workgroups (private or public) that productivity is far less than 100 percent and thus the opportunity to fill this huge gap is there to be filled.

Goal 4: Make the county a leader in education. By current standards, the Martin County School District is already a leader. However, there are still many ways in which the district can exceed its own reputation. The Swedish report states “to reverse the failings of the educational system, improving the skills of teachers and school leaders and to improve significantly teacher-coaching programs and ways to prove the profession” are goals that have not yet been reached. The same applies to the Martin County School District.

Goal 5: Increase the share of the population that is employed. This should be a major goal of the county, the Business Development Board and the School District. Martin County has the ability to create a welcoming environment conducive to job creation, however, it has a long way to go in aligning the necessary resources, the cultural climate and the political acumen that are attractive to new employers.

In summary, we believe the county should use the Swedish report as a guidepost for examining ways in which the county government can be better than it already is and develop into a model for all Florida to see.

Stuart News