As of right now, the only hope Key Largo taxpayers have of achieving wastewater funding equity is the anemic swap agreement. Under this agreement, the Key Largo Wastewater Treatment District (District) trades state funding it has in hand for county money paid out interest-free over some number of years. The agreement contains no guarantee of equity for the taxpayers. There is no back-up plan if adequate state funding should fail to materialize – a likely scenario. The District is putting the financial fate of its ratepayers into the hands of the county, a risky move. The county has proven itself unreliable, and was very reluctant to enter into this agreement at all. It would be foolish not to be concerned.
All that said, the county has taken another step in putting the swap into motion. Specifically, the date of the bond validation hearing has been set for December 10 with Judge Garcia presiding. So the county is not completely sandbagging it. We won’t have any way of knowing if this is actually a sincere effort until $26 million makes it into the pockets of Key Largo taxpayers. Which brings me to the next issue.
District wastewater commissioners need the occasional reminder that the taxpayers expect funding equity and they expect that equity to have a positive effect on their wallets. Key Largo taxpayers cannot take commissioner support for granted. When the state awarded the $17 million to the District, two wastewater commissioners objected to the fact that it could not be used for financial relief. They suggested simply giving the money away to the county, which of course, would provide zero benefit to Key Largo taxpayers who need financial relief the most. Unfortunately, state money is not that easy to come by. This year should be proof of that. The Keys got nothing. There are never any guarantees. That’s why I think every dime received by the District should be used to benefit its ratepayers. Full stop.
Unlike the Board of County Commissioners (BOCC), District commissioners do listen to their constituents and try to do what is right. So definitely use your voices and check in with them from time to time. You can call, email, speak up at the meetings during public comment or even have a written comment read during public comment time.
Here are some links with more information on this issue.