The Martin County Taxpayers Association is not against tax increases, but what we are against is bad tax policy.
The BOCC certainly has exhibited that on more than one occasion. For some time now, it has decided that it was better to own and operate businesses than have agreements with private vendors to do so. What happened at their last meeting shows what happens when good policy is sacrificed to the whims of commissioners who use taxpayer money to play entrepreneur.
This short article will not go through why public investments in water parks, golf courses and restaurants are not good policy. When you use tax dollars for those projects and not for the people’s roads, storm water, and parks, there is either a tax increase or the real job of government fails.
For the budget planning sessions this year, it appeared to us and others that the commissioners were not publicly engaged. Much work does happen behind the scenes between staff and the commissioner. Yet the reason for public meetings is for the public to understand the thought processes of the commissioners.
As usual, Commissioner Heard was loud and clear on which items she could support and which she could not. Commissioner Hetherington also made her trepidations known at several meetings. The other commissioners, when not acting completely uninterested, were wanting more allocated to their favorite projects.
The surprise occurred when it came time to vote on the 2022 budget. There would need to be tax increases in a few funds that would require super majority (4) votes since they were raised beyond what the law allows for a simple majority vote. As a result, Commissioner Ciampi took the lead in asking different departments to cut their budgets on the fly at the meeting.
It has become quite clear to us that what is considered untouchable budget items such as the sheriff’s department (34%), fire/rescue (21%), and other constitutional officers at 8% leaves very little room for other departments. Politically speaking, funding public safety has become the prime example of what it means to never say no for fear of alienating a core constituency.
It has become unsustainable to the taxpayers of the county. The commission has completely abrogated their oversight role. At some point, you can be too safe, and dollars spent have a diminishing return.
After making cuts on the fly and under the euphemism of deferring capital expenditures, a budget was passed needing a simple majority vote. In some cases, even a roll back rate was reached. This is not the way to have rational budgets created.
Every taxpayer in Martin County should demand more fiscal responsibility from every commissioner. Taxpayers should look at the trend toward businesses being created and operated by their government throughout the parks system. It may be time for MCTA to do another study on the waterpark where the county is claiming to have made a profit.
There can no longer be budget increases in public safety without a thorough cost analysis. Other counties have civilian budget authority boards which may be something Martin County should look to create. The BOCC is not fiscally conservative, but they do have fiscally conservative members. That majority should be built upon by the voters looking for fiscally responsible commissioners.
We are truly disappointed in how some of our commissioners are governing.