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We Get Mail. From John Tobia?

We have mentioned Brevard County Commissioner John Tobia several times on this site previously. Most recently, we wrote about his misguided attempt to limit free speech from citizens, a position which he later pulled back from.

The Brevard County Commission decided not to take up Tobia’s proposal – even the scaled back version.

However, we did get an email blast from Tobia and we think it need to be seen and read by others who aren’t on the Tobia mailing list:

County Commissioners Bust Tax Cap While Spending Frivolously

On July 23rd, the Brevard County Board of County Commissioners voted to bust the voter-approved spending cap by a 4-1 vote. I was the lone dissenter. This cap was imposed by an overwhelming majority of voters (73%) in 2008 to reign in out-of-control government spending.

The Board did this by declaring a “critical need.” This need was said to be increasing funding for public safety. Yet, it did this while still spending money on things that are, without question, not critical needs. For example, the County gives away thousands of your tax dollars to an organization, the Brevard Cultural Alliance, for “arts in public places.” Making things worse, this organization has been accused by a variety of citizens and groups, including arts organizations, of gross mismanagement of funds. I have been, and will continue to, work towards putting a stop to this frivolous spending.

Public safety is a core function of government, and it is absolutely essential that it gets necessary funding. However, so long as the Board chooses to spend funds irresponsibly, it cannot fairly claim that tax rates have to increase in other areas. This is no different than a family member asking to borrow money for rent while blowing their money on lobster and Lamborghinis. That is why I voted not to bust the spending cap. While this will not result in a tax increase, this is money that could go to roads, healing the Indian River Lagoon and Public Safety.

While the budget has not been finalized, please feel free to voice your concerns at the next Budget Meeting on September 12, 2019 at 5:30PM, located at the Viera Government Center (2725 Judge Fran Jamieson Way, Building C, Viera, in the County Commission Chambers). If you have questions on this or any other issue, please feel free to contact my office at D3.Commissioner@BrevardFl.gov or (321) 633-2075.

Sincerely,

John Tobia
County Commissioner, District 3

The Florida Today covers the vote and the issue:

When Brevard County Sheriff Wayne Ivey began suggesting earlier this year that he needed a boost to his budget, a concern was that his request had the potential to lead to a tax hike.

But an unexpected property tax windfall generated from new construction has enabled Brevard County Manager Frank Abbate to give the sheriff what he wanted, while keeping property tax rates in check for the coming budget year. There would be no tax increase after all.

Abbate’s plan received preliminary approval from a “supermajority” of Brevard County commissioners on Tuesday. The budget discussions focused on the sheriff’s request to accommodate what he called his “critical needs” in the county’s 2019-20 budget year that begins Oct. 1.

But the entire windfall being targeted for the Brevard County Sheriff’s Office comes at the expense of some of that money potentially going to unfunded county projects outside of law enforcement.

[….]

The unexpected additional dollars from new construction helped the county avoid having to advertise its proposed 2019-20 budget of $1.31 billion as including a tax increase.

However, the sheriff’s budget request still required county commissioners to approve a declaration of critical need for the Law Enforcement Municipal Service Taxing Unit — often referred to by the acronym MSTU.

The MSTU is a separate tax component paid by the owners of properties in unincorporated Brevard and three towns that use the BCSO for law enforcement. That property tax component was billed to 153,283 properties in the current 2018-19 budget year.

County commissioners on Tuesday approved the county’s proposed aggregate tax rate by a 5-0 vote, then approved the declaration of critical need for law enforcement by a 4-1 vote, with Commissioner John Tobia voting against.

Commissioners will hold two budget hearings, on Sept. 12 and Sept. 24, before they take a final vote on the budget.

Tobia said he felt the county could reduce spending elsewhere, then give the sheriff’s office more general fund money, to avoid an increase in the Law Enforcement MSTU tax rate.

[….]

Brevard County Clerk of Courts Scott Ellis — who was monitoring the discussion, but did not address the County Commission on Tuesday — said after the meeting that he felt commissioners did not do enough to press the sheriff on his budget during the meeting.

“It is stunning — the lack of questioning,” Ellis said. “There are questions people should ask,” and the sheriff should be challenged more about his spending request.

Ivey did have private one-on-one briefings with at least some of the commissioners in advance of the County Commission meeting, and did discuss his needs with commissioners at a public county budget workshop in February.

But Ellis believes there should have been a more extensive public discussion on Tuesday, beyond what was brought up during the public comment period.

We have a tendency to agree with Tobia and Ellis. We think the Sheriff or any agency coming before the County Commission should have to explain their request in front of the world. While Ivey’s meetings with individual Commissioners do not violate any law, there is a principal that seems to be being broken which is that of an open discussion in the light of day on issues that will affect the public. The meetings were not a request from Commissioners for data on an issue. The meetings were “Hi. This is Sheriff Ivey. I’d like to meet with you privately on my budget proposal and why you need to break the cap the citizens voted upon and passed.”

We think a fly on the walls in those meetings would have been a good thing.

To quote law enforcement officers who ask questions of citizens, “what is there to hide if you’ve done nothing wrong?”

As we said, we have criticized Commissioner Tobia before and we think it is right and proper to post when we think he is doing the right thing.

The referenced email gives his email, his phone and the date of the meeting where this issue will be discussed.

If you want to talk to the County Commissioner from your area, you can get their contact information here.



2 Responses to “We Get Mail. From John Tobia?”

  1. Pam LaSalle says:

    The commissioners have the authority but not the will, or possibly the ability, to control the sheriff budget.

    • AAfterwit says:

      Pam LaSalle,

      Thank you for the comment.

      You are not the first person to say that and we agree with you to a very large extent.

      A. Afterwit.

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