A week after a surprise vote not to cut taxes, South Florida water managers have called a surprise meeting to revisit next year’s $754 million budget.
The announcement comes after a 6-2 vote July 16 to keep the South Florida Water Management District tax rate the same, pumping $21 million into next year’s budget. The rate, which still must undergo two public hearings in September, would keep the district from having to dip into reserves.
District spokesman Randy Smith declined to comment on the workshop and special meeting set to begin at 9 a.m. Friday at the district’s West Palm Beach headquarters.
But Eric Draper, Audubon Florida’s executive director, fears the board is caving to pressure from Tallahassee to cut taxes.
“We’re concerned that the Legislature provided much less money ... than what Gov. (Rick) Scott asked for, less by roughly $60 million,” for Everglades restoration, Draper said. “So the district is strapped and they’re digging deep in reserves.”
The 16-county district is funded by a combination of property taxes, local and federal money, permit fees, grants and agricultural taxes. The governing board sets the rate for the special taxing district in its own jurisdiction. At the July 16 meeting, the board voted to keep the tax rate the same.
If the rate remains the same, it will mark the first time in five years that board members have not cut taxes.