Twenty former governing board members of Florida’s water management districts are urging Gov. Rick Scott to reverse another round of pending budget cuts.
In a letter sent to Scott Monday, they urged the governor to “restore adequate funding’’ for the five regional agencies responsible for the water supply, flood control and many environmental protection projects, including Everglades restoration.
The Florida Legislature this year removed a year-old revenue cap that had slashed district budgets statewide by 30 percent, a move environmental groups had hoped would restore some of the lost funding. Instead, water district governing boards, who are appointed by the governor, have continued cutting back, rather than holding the line or raising property tax rates to previous levels.
The South Florida Water Management District, for example, which just settled a long-running federal lawsuit by agreeing to $880 million in new projects to reduce the flow of pollution in the Everglades, gave preliminary approval to a $600 million budget that includes another 2 percent cut in its property tax rate. That follows a $100 million cut last year. A final budget hearing is scheduled for Sept. 25.
The former board members, including Miami attorney Eric Buermann, who was the South Florida district’s chairman under former Gov. Charlie Crist, argued the cuts save property owners a small amount at a large cost for important programs like Glades restoration, and alternative water supply projects. A Miami-Dade property owner of a $150,000 home paid $62.40 in district taxes in 2011. This latest proposed roll-back will reduce that to $42.89.
The governor’s office did not respond to a call and an email for comment about the letter, which echoes complaints from environmental groups. But in announcing final state approval last week of the Everglades pollution cleanup plan reached with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Scott said the plan was to pay for the work with existing state and district revenues “without raising or creating new costs for Floridians.’’
-- Curtis Morgan