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mcsdFebruary 15, 2014--The Deputy Commissioner of the Florida State Department of Education has decreed that by 2018 every school will have a computer for every child and every child will have access to the Internet. Additionally, SB2120 requires Florida public schools to spend at least 50% of textbook budget on digital materials by 2015-2016. These important directives will help to bring Florida education into the digital age. The Martin County School District (MCSD) is working to this end.

mcsdFebruary 15, 2014--The Deputy Commissioner of the Florida State Department of Education has decreed that by 2018 every school will have a computer for every child and every child will have access to the Internet. Additionally, SB2120 requires Florida public schools to spend at least 50% of textbook budget on digital materials by 2015-2016. These important directives will help to bring Florida education into the digital age. The Martin County School District (MCSD) is working to this end.

February 1, 2014--For the past two years, the MCTA has recommended that the state reform the Florida Retirement System (FRS). We have made numerous recommendations to the governor and our locally elected officials to make changes necessary to reduce cost and ensure the long-term stability of the plan. To date, only marginal changes have been made. In the most recent public appeal for reform by the Stuart News (“Make Some Noise” Sunday, January 26, 2014) the paper calls for reform of the pensions of our elected officials and rightly so. However, the calls for reform should be extended to include both elected officials and government employees. Here’s why.

MCBOCCDecember 22, 2013-- As the New Year approaches, we reflect on 2013. The Martin County Taxpayers Association (MCTA) has engaged in a number of activities to fulfill our mission of representing the interests of the taxpayers of Martin County as well as our membership. MCTA continues to speak out on issues that having impact the taxpayers both through our column “In Your Corner” in the Stuart News, as well as developing position papers on various issues relating

Stuart NewsJanuary 18, 2014--The Indian Street Bridge, now named the Veteran’s Memorial Bridge, is finally completed. For those long time residents, it has been a long time coming. Taking a look back in the history of this event is very instructive.

Martin County requested funds from the State Road Department to construct a new bridge crossing the South Fork of the St. Lucie in 1965. In 1985 the Comprehensive Plan was adopted and actually included the construction of the Indian Street Bridge. In the 1990's, the right of way was acquired and the level of service of the existing Palm City Bridge was exceeded which caused the county to adopt an interim level of service for the bridge. In 1993 the bridge was named the county’s number one road priority projected to open before 2000.

A Feasibility Study was conducted in 1998 which indicated potential environmental and air quality impacts due to the construction of the bridge. The report recommended that additional corridors be evaluated. Seven potential corridors were considered, and the most favorable route according to the Florida Department of Transportation, surprisingly enough turned out to be the Indian street route. However, this did not deter those who did not want the bridge to be built. In an effort to hear from the public, Martin County held hearings from 2001-2003 with nearly 2000 in attendance. Fifteen hundred submitted sixteen hundred written comments and according to county records, only five percent wanted the bridge.

In 2007, The Stuart News reported that the Citizens for Smart Growth (CSG) filed a federal lawsuit, accusing state and federal transportation officials of violating the National Environmental Protection Act by downplaying the environmental damage the bridge would cause to the St. Lucie River wetlands, fish habitat and neighborhood parks. In 2010, US District Judge Jose Martinez rejected Citizens’ federal lawsuit. Citizens’ then filed an appeal with the US Circuit Court for the 11th Circuit in Atlanta. Citizens’ also challenged the South Florida Water Management District’s permit for the bridge. In December, 2010 Administrative Law Judge D.R. Alexander ruled that the contested SFWMD permits for the bridge be approved. At the same time the project was included in the federal stimulus program in March 2009 as a ‘shovel ready’ project. Opponents then appeared on the NBC “Today Show” to question the use of the stimulus money for the bridge.

Due to all the litigation delays the interim level of service adapted in 1996 for the old bridge was now due to expire and the County was relying on the construction of the new bridge to relieve congestion on the existing Palm City Bridge and maintain compliance with their own Comprehensive Growth Management Plan. Notwithstanding the numerous attempts to stop the bridge construction, the bridge construction began in March 2010.

The MCTA association believes that in reviewing the long and tortuous history of the bridge is instructive for several reasons. First, it seems that no matter what is in the comprehensive plan, that members of the BOCC have the ability to undo, delay or move forward their individual or collective agendas. Second, timing is everything and in this instance, quite costly. If the bridge was constructed when the need was first anticipated in 1988, it was estimated the cost would be about $17.2 million. If the bridge was built during the boom in 2007, the estimated costs were $128 million. Ultimately, due to the numerous delays, the project costs were $64 million. I suppose taxpayers should be grateful for the second set of delays. Third, and most importantly, government works best when it is balanced. We recognize that politicians all have agendas, but when taken to extremes, we the taxpayer always end up paying the bill. Lessons learned? That remains to be seen.

MCBOCCDecember 22, 2013-- As the New Year approaches, we reflect on 2013. The Martin County Taxpayers Association (MCTA) has engaged in a number of activities to fulfill our mission of representing the interests of the taxpayers of Martin County as well as our membership. MCTA continues to speak out on issues that having impact the taxpayers both through our column “In Your Corner” in the Stuart News, as well as developing position papers on various issues relating

mcsdJanuary 4, 2014-- On its face, dual enrollment (the ability of high school students to take courses at a local community college) is a great idea.  Originally, it was intended for advanced students who could not find appropriate level courses at the high school they attended.  Few students took advantage of this program because high schools  offered Advanced Placement (AP) courses as well as the International Baccalaureate (IB) program.  Both programs are taught by district teachers on campus and costs are calculated through the District Allocation system but are significantly cheaper to the district than dual enrollment courses.    

MCBOCCDecember 8, 2013--The Stuart News article “Who’s Making $100,000.00 (Sunday, December 1, 2013) is a reminder of the need for compensation reform in the public sector.  Over the past 2 years, the MCTA has published several articles about the misdirection of pay and benefits in the public sector that has resulted in the wide disparities in pay for public officials at both the state and local level.  The Stuart News article includes a report on pay in Martin, St. Lucie and Indian River and identifies the number of individuals in each county earning over $100,000.00 annually that includes “base pay, overtime, bonuses, supplements and all other forms of pay.”  As such it is hard to compare direct pay or cash as opposed to other forms of pay between counties and therein lies another problem. The fact that pay varies by County is not unusual.  But, what should be of concern to taxpayers is the compensation approach used by both the counties and the state.