Editor’s note: Richard Winger is a member of the Vero Beach City Council.
Three days of budget discussions did absolutely nothing to bring our City into a financially secure future. The can has been kicked down the road and it is financial management by crisis.
We now have deficit spending amid millions of dollars of financial shortfall.
All the good work of the last four Councils, when they began long term financial planning, was tossed away.
Summarily dismissed was the need to address the ancient stormwater infrastructure, collapsing culverts, unpaved and failing streets and recreational facilities in need of repair.
Instead those monies were directed to other areas. 94% of the budget goes to City departments to provide services and cover fixed costs. With employee numbers down, there is additional need to hire outside personnel to provide for essential services.
Prior Councils, in the recent past, addressed Employee Pension and Benefits under-funding, deferred purchase of cars and trucks, and deferred maintenance and repair of aging infrastructure/structures.
Prior Councils also accepted responsibility for correcting pollution to the Lagoon. They adopted a fertilizer ordinance, initiated a process to convert septic to sewer systems (STEP)and upgraded baffle boxes to deter harmful elements from entering the Lagoon from run-off.
This Council? Nothing! I could not approve the budget. It was a sorry ending to our annual Budget discussion. Despite promises, there was no funding for a cure for our stormwater problem. The polluted water running off parking lots and paved surfaces continues to contaminate our Lagoon.
At least there is a potential solution to this particular problem, a stormwater fund. But a Council 3-vote-majority turned it down in February with promises of funding stormwater/the lagoon during budget talks. That did not happen!
If promises are to be kept, Council now must consider the Stormwater Fund. This applies a $5 monthly user fee to Utility customers for a limited period of five years. The monies will be used for stormwater/lagoon projects, and will be managed completely by current staff. It also means the money spent on emergency culvert repairs can now go to infrastructure. The City partially solves two problems at one time!
Please call City Clerk Tammy Bursick at 978-4700 or e-mail her at Tbursick@covb.org to express your concerns about this matter.
P.S. Please pass this message along to your neighbors.