The annual State of the County road show is underway. On the positive side, the presentation is visually appealing and well-organized. There are optimistic-sounding phrases like “bold new initiatives” and “long-term financial viability”. It’s a great tool for softening up the taxpayers in preparation for the budget season, which started on April 8. If taxpayers are focused on “super-whamodyne” new projects and reassuring phrases like “long-term financial viability” then they won’t ask many questions about where all this money is coming from and where it will be spent. Here’s a link: 2014-15 State of Monroe County
The jarring thing about the report is what goes unsaid, especially when it comes to the Cudjoe Regional wastewater project. This project was originially budgeted at $147 million. The price tag is now $190 million. There is no mention of the $43 million over-run. How did it happen? Who is paying for it? How will such a thing be prevented in the future? None of this is addressed.
We are simply told that this project is the result of a “successful partnership” between Monroe County and the Florida Keys Aqueduct Authority. Successful? This project is not only way over budget, it’s generated serious concerns among the customers in the local service area. So serious that several lawsuits have been filed to stop the project. How in the world can this possibly be considered successful?
Let’s stop and think for a moment how much money $43 million really is. The county estimates that it will receive $95 million from the infrastructure sales over the next five years. Forty-three million is almost half of that. The county plans to spend $28 million on paving and road improvements. Forty-three million would have paid for that and then some. Same goes for the $26 million wastewater funding disparity suffered by Key Largo taxpayers.
What necessary projects will NOT be done because of this overspending? The longer infrastructure is allowed to deteriorate, the more expensive it is to fix. How much more will have to be spent in the future because funds weren’t available today?
Exactly how can the county ensure “long-term financial viability” with spending habits like this? I guess that’s where Key Largo comes in. As long as Key Largo taxpayers remain silent and uninformed about the existing inequitable situation, the county is free to squander their tax money elsewhere.