Update: Because of the continuing out-of-control cost escalation of the Cudjoe Regional project, the funding disparity now stands at $125 million.
The county has implied that Key Largo has benefited from the infrastructure sales tax to such an extent that the $100 million difference in wastewater funding is justified. That $100 million difference has resulted in a $26 million over-contribution from Key Largo taxpayers. I already wrote about spending on parks, but there’s a bit more to cover. Here I’ll wrap up the loose ends.
Rowell’s Marina is typically thrown out there as a quick example to justify the disparity in wastewater funding. However, infrastructure spending on parks fails to support this justification. As already mentioned here, there actually appears to be a funding disparity in this category as well. Though not nearly so severe as the wastewater funding issue.
I organized the Project History Document into several categories in order to further analyze the county’s insinuation that Key Largo benefits from the infrastructure sales tax to such an extent that it justifies the $100 million funding imbalance. I’ve provided a link to the Project History Summary table: InfrastructureSalesTaxSummary
Government buildings include schools, libraries, government offices, court houses, etc. They generally serve both incorporated and unincorporated populations. About $62.1 million will be spent in the Lower Keys through 2019 to serve a population of 43,000. Approximately $34.7 million will be spent in the Upper Keys for a population of nearly 20,000. The population of the Upper Keys is about 46% of the population of the Lower Keys. Spending on government buildings in the Upper Keys is about 56% of what is spent in the Lower Keys. Looking at it this way, the Upper Keys has a slight advantage when it comes to spending on government buildings. Perhaps $5 million or so, but it’s nowhere close to $100 million. (Population information was taken from Census.gov and a summary table is provided here: Population2010)
When it comes to Animal Control, the Upper Keys shelter handles about as many animals as the Key West Shelter. It receives about half the annual funding as the Key West shelter, and according to the county’s project history spreadsheet, it receives less than 10% of spending on infrastructure.
The county spent $433,141 for improvements to Bayshore Manor, an assisted living facility located in Stock Island. That appears to be the only facility of its kind that received funding from the infrastructure sales tax.
About $3.7 million has been spent on affordable housing in the Lower Keys as opposed to $1.1 in the Upper Keys. Approximately $16.7 million was spent on fire and police facilities in the Lower Keys as compared to $9.6 million in the Upper Keys. Again, there doesn’t appear to be any excessive benefit to Key Largo.
Perhaps one day the county will provide verifiable facts to back up its position. Until then all I have to go on is the Project History they provided. And that document fails to support the notion that Key Largo has received such an excessive benefit on other projects that the huge wastewater funding disparity is justified. In fact, when it comes to the infrastructure sales tax, the Upper Keys is a donor community to the tune of $3 million per year.