MCTA is looking at several different programs currently being funded by our county’s governments.
The programs include both county-wide government and municipal government. Since our organization does not practice the “gotcha” form of oversight, we try to give a fair and balanced picture. Therefore, we can take months to study and understand a program before reporting on it. Here is a summary of the programs we are currently evaluating.
One of the things that we have been evaluating is the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) dollars flowing to Martin County and municipalities. The Town of Ocean Breeze, which was entitled to $190,000 in funds, has decided not to accept the money because it did not have the ability to meet the requirements for spending the money. All other municipalities, the school board, and the county are proceeding.
Another program that has caught our eye is the county’s weighing whether a stormwater utility should be created. If such a utility were created, what is the fate of the current portion of the general fund devoted to stormwater and the stormwater MSTU in the budget? A utility charge is based on usage while an ad valorem tax is based on the value of a property. It would seem to us the former would be a fairer method than the current one. Yet as always, the devil is in the details.
On another front…recently, Public Works presented an agenda item to buy property for a new wellness center. It was completely out of context as to how policy should be made. If the county determines the model for delivering healthcare to its employees and dependents should be modified and changed, then a thorough presentation should be made to the commission.
The commission wisely sent the idea back to staff for further details. Whether to buy land and to build a new center needs to start with why it is being contemplated. The Gehring Group, the county’s health care consultant, needs to make a presentation as to whether this is the best choice.
The Sheriff’s Department budget has increased from $63 million in 2016 to $79 million in 2022. That is a 25% increase in six years which is more than inflation. We do live in a very safe county. Yet, if we continue to spend money at this pace, how much safer can we afford to be and what is the payback to the taxpayers?
Among things to be considered would be to ask if the expenditure of over $5 million on a new helicopter was necessary. Other questions would be to determine if a higher pay scale for crossing guards would alleviate the shortage. More dollars spent on sophisticated programs are not always better.
Many ask about the MARTY busses and how they seem to carry few passengers. Exactly how many passengers ride the busses, where does the funding come from, and is it a federal or state requirement that the county continues to have them? One of our members recently met with the director of the program, and for the first time, we experienced little to no cooperation.
At present we are trying to understand why our request for information was being rebuffed. This only serves to pique our curiosity more. We have always had near-total cooperation with staff and hope this is an anomaly from someone new to the county government.
A perineal favorite of ours is the county Parks Department. We will continue to examine the operating of the golf course, water park, restaurants, and now the Jensen Beach mooring field. In the past, we have not been fans of the government’s operation of businesses and functions that are best left to the private sector.
Both Indiantown and Stuart are looking at new city hall buildings. They have taken radically different approaches. As these municipalities continue down their perspective paths, we will examine if their choices are best for their taxpayers.
Some of these project ideas will result in no article or study being published. Others will result in MCTA agreeing that the government is proceeding down the correct course. A few articles could likely take the project to task for not being in the best interest of the taxpayers.
Stay tuned for more!