Saturday, August 8, 2020

Marco Fire Station Not the Only Victim of Veto Pen



Under Florida State Law, the legislative branch of government is required to pass a balanced budget each year before sending it along to the Governor’s Office for his review. The governor may then utilize the “lineitem veto,” should he feel more restraint is necessary to take into consideration unforeseen circumstances or shortfalls in revenue. 

The state of Florida heavily relies upon sales tax revenue to provide services and funding for many of the programs it runs, as well as revenue sharing back to counties and communities across the stateand tourism it what helps drive that economic engine. 

The challenges in dealing with COVID-19 and the challenges due to the impact on the sales tax revenue stream had to weigh heavily on the decisions recently made by Florida Governor Ron DeSantis as he made cuts throughout the $93.2 billion budget. 

“Despite the present challenges Florida faces due to the COVID-19 Pandemic, the Fiscal Year 2020-2021 Budget ensures the states priorities are protected and funded,” said DeSantis in a press release that coincided with a list of over $1.6 billion in cuts to the previously approved Legislative Budget. The Legislature could be called back into session to challenge those vetoes, however, that is unlikely. 

The City of Marco Island was one of those victims of the Governor’s veto pen. A requested $650,000 grant which would help fund a portion of the cost for the replacement of the Marco Fire Headquarters was one of those casualties suffered as Governor DeSantis vetoed that request. 

The Governor continued to make good on his commitment to continue funding environmental projects such as the Everglades Restoration Project and the protection of clean water sources. Increases in continued investments in education were also included within the recent state budget. 

The City of Naples also felt the sting of the veto pen as their request for $1.1 million for their Septic Tank Replacement Program was also a victim of the Governor’s veto.  

Glades County also lost a $700,000 grant for an E-911 Public Safety facility, even the Lehigh Acres Fire Control District would see their request for $1.25 million for a new station in their district fall victim to the veto pen.  

The planned new station for Marco Island has been estimated at approximately $12 million and would be built on the present site of Station 50, which would be demolished to make way for a larger facility. 

It is unclear as to whether any redesign of the proposed facility may be necessary due to the experience in dealing with the COVID-19 Pandemic. Issues dealing with living quarters are being reviewed on a national level within the fire service due to exposure challenges for First Responders and public access to those buildings. 

The city has also been evaluating the utilization of the county passed special 1% increase in the sales tax. However, those estimates may necessitate another review due to the downturn in the economic activity regarding that income stream and the competition for those dollars for other needs such as stormwater management, road resurfacing, as well as other capital projects. 

Fire Chief Michael Murphy feels confident that the city will once again reapply for the grant during the next year’s budget cycle and felt positive that the issue of funding will be worked out to the satisfaction of all. 

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