The Monroe County budget is a complicated document

Monroe County Commissioner David Rice joined Good Morning Keys on KeysTalk 96.9/102.5FM this morning to talk about what’s going on in the county.

A budget workshop will be held in Key Largo on September 20 and costs are certainly increasing everywhere.

Rice said, “The county budget is not just the county budget, I’m afraid. It’s a pretty complicated document, because we must by statute, we have to account for funds that simply run through our organization. For example, the sheriff’s budget shows as expenses on the overall county budget, but we all know that’s not where the money gets spent and that’s not why it gets spent. There are numerous other areas in the budget that don’t support any decisions made by the Board of County Commissioners. The money from TDC is actually money that resulted from many, many requests over the last several years, looking at the TDC funding and being concerned about the amount of funding there. They had built up quite a reserve and some of that reserve has been moved out of TDC to decrease the tax burden on our residents. That money is going the opposite way. We are not giving tax money to TDC. We are moving it to an area of greater need. So that’s just one example of how easy it is to get confused looking at that budget because it’s truly not a simple document.”

Some of that money will be used toward affordable housing.

Rice said, “I believe it’ll be applied to an area that we all know that is very much needed.”

The possibility of merging judicial districts of Monroe County with Miami-Dade County may still be the table.

Rice said, “This item has come up previously, it seems that it rears its head every few years for statewide consideration. While I’m all for things that can save money, we have to look at what does it cost us to do that? I think it was a very bad idea the last time it was considered and it remains a very bad idea now. Personally, I have lived in the Keys a little over half a century now. The times that we have had our services rolled in with Dade County, we get lost. We get absolutely lost in the size of the Dade County organization. Not only that, we would have people traveling to Dade County for court appearances. In Dade County, the seriousness of what we consider serious crimes that we want prosecuted just would not even get a report in Dade County. So I think it could have a pronounced effect on our quality of life and the distance involved just seems to make it almost a ludicrous idea.”

King tides are also an issue in the Keys through the end of November.

Rice said, “As we’re talking, I’m looking into my backyard, and we’re seeing the water level, noticeably higher than usual. So it’s on its way but unfortunately, we do have two to three neighborhoods in the Upper Keys that have flooding problems when it is not king tide and their problem becomes magnified at this time. We’ll be hearing from a couple of those neighborhoods at our next meeting next Wednesday. They are very impatient to get the water off their roads and we would love to do it. The problem being that it’s horrifically expensive to do that. So we have not moved as fast as they would of course like because short of taxing everybody in Monroe County to fix their roads, we’re having to wait until we can obtain grant funding to address those issues. That doesn’t happen overnight, of course. So we’re working on it, we’re trying. They’re not the only places with problems. If everything that we read comes through, more of us will share in the pain. So we’re working on it and hopefully we can address those as they need to be.”

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