Brevard County Commissioner Trudie Infantini submitted the following response to FLORIDA TODAY'S "Indian River Lagoon Scorecard":
I believe that everyone agrees the lagoon needs a restoration plan. The questions are:
What is the best way to restore it and how to fund it?
Desperate times call for desperate measures and the state of our Lagoon warrants asking the governor to declare a state of emergency to free up state funds and cut through the permitting bureaucratic red tape as I requested. The other commissioners did not want this. They did not want to pressure the Governor. Instead, they want you to vote to tax yourselves to pay for the Lagoon woes. None of the other Indian River Lagoon counties are proposing taxing their residents to pay for the cleanup and restoration of the Lagoon. This measure would create another ‘special tax district’ targeting property owners and tax them based on their property values. This is a state and federal responsibility, not just a local issue.
What other water body that transcends multiple counties and jurisdictions relies on the property owners in one county to foot the bill?
The current methodology employed by the Brevard County Commissioners is first we tax you, then we fail to prioritize budget spending, finally we tax you even more. Until this county commission buckles down and makes the daunting budget decisions and prioritizes spending, I will remain steadfast in my commitment to the citizens who elected me – NO new taxes or tax increases until waste is cut and the priority list has been created.
Over the last few years you have been hit with a roughly 30% increase in your property tax rate, 78% increase in your storm water taxes, a sales tax increase for schools, and likely increases in many of your living expenses. We dodged the “100% increase in gas tax” bullet, but must remain vigilant in knowing the infrastructure sales tax issue is still looming.
So where should the funding come from to clean the lagoon?
I believe the general fund of tax money already collects enough to support our contribution to restore the lagoon. However, right now Brevard County government is giving millions of dollars to a billionaire to locate his company here; committed to giving millions of dollars to a developer to rebuild a mall in Titusville; and several million to build a “spec” building in north Brevard, even though no tenant has stated they would want the building. These are choices that must be factored into the solution equation before reaching deeper into taxpayers’ wallets.
When will the lagoon become the priority over corporate welfare?
The commissioners claim we should “let the voters decide.” The voters have already spoken by placing their trust in their elected officials who campaigned on lower taxes, efficient government and prioritized spending. Newly seated commissioners are reminded this was the single biggest reason people voted for them was to stop raising taxes the way their predecessors had. The suggestion to create another tax district is another effort to circumvent the SAVE OUR HOMES protections we currently have in place. A Charter Amendment referendum prevents your tax bill from increasing by the lower of 3% or CPI, EXCLUDING taxes implemented due to voter referendum.
How much of an increase in property taxes can your budget endure before you lose your home to the county for failure to pay your property taxes?
For the record – Florida Today’s article titled “Lagoon Scorecard: Brevard County Commissioners’ Reactions” was improperly titled. This is because Commissioners were asked to explain the reasons for their votes on the Lagoon. We were not asked to react to the story and respond to the Florida Today Scorecard. Some Lagoon related votes were not included in the scoring.