BCFR Lieutenant Blames 'Extremist Conservatives' For Brevard County Budget Woes

Donald Slayman, a Lieutenant with Brevard County Fire Rescue, is blaming 'extremist conservatives' for Brevard County's budget woes following a mass email sent by Brevard County Commissioner Trudie Infantini alerting residents that the 2016-17 budget proposed by Brevard County Manager Scockton Whitten exceeds the statutory cap set by the State of Florida. The County Commission will hold a hearing on Tuesday, July 26, 2016, at 1 p.m. to decide whether or not to approve the budget. The meeting is open to the public at the Government Center in Viera, Florida.

"Our voter-approved (2008) TAX CAP referendum on property taxes is in jeopardy," Infantini wrote in her mass email. "County Commissioners voted to hold a secret meeting (a/k/a “executive session”) after having a lawsuit filed against them where the Firefighter Union is questioning the legality of the Cap.   The TAX CAP was approved by 73% of the voters in 2008 to prevent run-away spending. Many current Commissioners feel we have a revenue problem and are in favor of doing away with the Tax Cap.  I say we have a spending problem."

" ... The tax cap can only be exceeded if there is a “critical need or an emergency,” Infantini continued. "No such need was ever discussed or determined by the County Commissioners. This tax cap provision was obviously intended for unforeseen, unpredictable or uncontrollable events that require additional funds. Critical needs can only be determined after spending is prioritized. I have attempted every year that I have been on this board to get budgetary spending prioritized, but to no avail. So far, in the past 12 months, Commissioners have floated the idea of additional gas tax to fix our roads, sales tax to fix our infrastructure, and lagoon tax to fix the lagoon.  When none of those caught on with the taxpayers the same leadership now claim “critical need” and “emergency” to circumvent the tax cap."

"The real problem is that this board wants to make the public believe that there is no money for critical needs because it refuses to address non-core function spending, special districts and cash up-front to companies," argued Infantini. "We need to adequately fund and equip our deputies, firefighters and the salaries and benefits of our employees. Our budget needs to be prioritized and funding for non-essential entitlement groups eliminated. Our lagoon and roads need to be improved as part of our budgetary process annually, not as a new revelation or as an “emergency” to justify a special tax."

"I am appalled (yet not at all surprised) at your "Alert" email in reference to the Tax Cap." countered Slayman. "Brevard County is in a state of disrepair because of the extremist conservatives like yourself that overlook the good of our county in exchange for a following of a misinformed citizenry that relies on your lies and propaganda as their sole source of information.  I am a conservative, politically and fiscally; however, I am also open-minded (and educated) enough to realize that goods and services cost money."

"... You also stated that firefighters blame the lack of pay on the cap, and alluded that pay is the only driving force behind the lawsuit.," Slayman continued.  "You failed to mention that despite the fact the Firefighter Union is currently in wage negotiations, no firefighters are receiving pay increases (only the dispatchers are potentially receiving an increase).  Perhaps the firefighters can see that despite Brevard County being one of the state's largest counties, we have terrible services, significant and highly visible employee retention problems, and we can no longer even pay for the most basic of county responsibilities - roads, environmental safety, public transportation, adequate public safety, etc ... Although highly unlikely, I hope that you can somehow understand the importance of advancing our county and that you are absolutely misleading the public in which you represent with your emails that root in one-sided propaganda."

Slayman noted at the end of his email that he was speaking as an individual, and not as a representative of BCFR or the firefighter union.

The firefighter union has filed suit to challenge the constitutionality of the tax cap for Brevard County that enacted by the Florida Legislature. Although a State of Florida law, the union only named Brevard County as a defendant in the lawsuit.

Notwithstanding the union's lawsuit and Slayman's claim that the County has a 'revenue problem' rather than a 'spending problem,' the union appeared to agree with Infantini's position when it comes to corporate welfare championed by Commissioner Robin Fisher. In the recent $3.74 million tax break giveaway to Walmart, Infantini was the only Commissioner who voted against the tax breaks.

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