(The following was read to the Brevard County Commission on 7/23/2013)
As a commissioner my priority job is to represent the people and provide clear guidance to county government. It is during this budget cycle that I hear the most input from my constituents. I hear consistent messages from property owners and business owners. The property tax burdens are too high and fundamentally unfair. The property owners bear the greatest burden while others are taxed lightly.
From business owners I hear that our permitting fee and regulations are very costly. It takes too much time, and the enforcement is inflexible. There is a general perception among existing business owners that Brevard is not business friendly. Specifically, I have heard a business owner wanted to grow his company, and found a commercial building suitable for his expansion plans. After discovering that the costs of compliance would exceed $100,000 and none of it would further his business goals, he decided to abandon his growth plans. This is an ongoing tragedy in our county and I have heard countless other stories of cost, delays and inflexible enforcement. It seems we offer goodies to attract new business while grinding down the businesses that are already here.
My constituents ask me why county government has grown disproportionately to the growth of the population. This current budget proposal, when compared to the budget in 2000, is 57% larger, while population over the past 13 years has grown about 14.5%. Why does county government grow at a 3.8 multiple of the population growth.
Why has the fire/rescue firefighter headcount grown from 263 in 2000 to 560 now? This is a growth rate of 113%. Have fires more than doubled? Are we a population of reckless and careless citizens? I don’t think so.
The County Manager laments the high mileage on county vehicles, yet we see every day..over response to ordinary fender benders. I have been given photos of such over response from constituents.
Everything I have mentioned has been brought to me by constituents.
Here are some other questions they ask. Why do we not have zero base budgeting? Without that, it is impossible to evaluate and measure the budget requests to the true demands and needs in the County? Why are we unwilling to use this transparent practice, in common use throughout the private sector?
Why do we rely so heavily on property taxes? Can we broaden the base, so all citizens share more equally in the cost of government?
We owe answers and action for our constituents. We cannot persist in maintaining the status quo.