Budget plan’s conservation cuts draw ire

So far, the most exciting part of the Brevard County government’s $1.1 billion preliminary 2017-18 budget introduced in late July has been the public’s venom directed at nearly $4 million in proposed cuts to the Environmentally Endangered Lands and the parks and recreation programs.
The EEL program is dedicated to conservation through land acquisition and management in Brevard County. The program protects the county’s natural habitats, managing them for rare, threatened, endangered or endemic plants and animals.
Jill Hayes, the county budget director, said the proposed total budget for EELs expects to decrease $316,495, or 2.63 percent. Parks and recreation’s total budget also decreases $3.49 million, or 5.24 percent. But the total proposed budget presented would increase $86.5 million, or 8.2 percent.
Bo Platt of Melbourne said EELs should be fully funded. “It’s a small amount of the budget and this program sets us apart from other coastal communities. Voters voted twice to fund these programs. I help out with the barrier island turtle walks. Cuts could mean staff layoffs and decreased visitation.”
The cuts for these two programs are part of a proposed aggregate millage rate of 6.3268 for all 20 of Brevard County’s operating taxing districts, compared to the current year’s 6.5919, a 4.02 percent decline. With the new rate, the homeowner at a property valued at $100,000 would pay $633 in overall county taxes. The 2017-18 taxable property values in the county amount to $34.5 billion, with $380.1 million from new construction. This represents an 8.06 percent increase from the almost $32 million value in the current year. The county anticipates $143.3 million in tax revenues from the rise in property values, an increase of $3.3 million with $1.6 million from new construction.  EELs and parks and recreation supporters say the figures provide more than enough funds to keep these two programs at the same level at the very least.
Some other budget highlights, both up and down:
The total budget for the Natural Resources Management Department increases by $16.3 million or 18.49 percent, for a total budget of $104.7 million. The Space Coast Transportation Planning Organization rises 19.9 percent to $2.1 million.
Emergency management expenses are down 10.75 percent to $13.5 million. The Fire and Rescue department budget expects to fall 5.2 percent to $65.9 million.
The budget for public works is $129 million, a decline of 5.56 percent over 2016-17 figures.
The Sheriff’s office budget decreases 0.7 percent. Supervisor of elections budget also falls 8.2 percent.
Budget Hearings are set for Sept. 12, Sept. 22 and then final adoption on Sept. 26.

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