Taxpayers deserve extra respect from two Indian River Boards of opinion

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Laurence Reisman

| Treasure Coast Newspapers

The more I thought about what I saw Tuesday morning, the more excited I got.

First, I agree with the views of some other people I know: I’m tired of choosing which government meetings to attend or watch on Tuesday morning.

The other day I had to choose between the Indian River County Commission, which has occupied Tuesday at 9 a.m. for decades and had an all-important rededication hearing, and the Mosquito Control District Board.

The three-person elected board of directors oversees a $ 6.2 million budget and 29 employees. We pay the district approximately $ 25 for every $ 100,000 of taxable value. I like to pay $ 21.90 a year to limit the risk of being bitten by a West Nile mosquito or other dangerous virus.

Still, I want to know that the district is run professionally and that the people we elect are on the lookout for taxpayers.

After watching a workshop on December 3rd – only visible in person or through Zoom – I feared that Tuesday the board would give its new director a contract for the first time in the district’s 95-year history.

More: Watch the Indian River County’s Mosquito District meeting on December 8, 2020

More: Should a new mosquito district director get an agency contract for the first time?

More: Read the LinkedIn profile of the new director of the Mückenviertel

After five years, starting at $ 129,979 with various perks – like a taxable vehicle that could be used for a 112 mile round trip to their home in Okeechobee – I thought the proposed contract was too heavily in favor of Sherry Burroughs ( 52) was distorted new director.

Board member Janice Broda, a part-time coordinator of the state program, turned down the vehicle benefit if Burroughs stayed in Okeechobee. Broda calculated that using the Internal Revenue Service spending figures, the real cost of the car to taxpayers would be more than $ 14,000 a year.

Board member Buck Vocelle, who owns a law firm, said the perk was more like a car allowance, and board chairman Tom Lowther, who owns a funeral home, agreed.

The number doesn’t match the $ 2,600 per year car allowances that County Administrator Jason Brown (starting salary $ 167,000 in 2016) and $ 10,200 paid to Headmaster David Moore ($ 180,000 in 2019), whose budget is more than 50 times higher than the Mückenviertel.

I could vote to death the contract proposed by Burroughs. I am not accusing her of seeking advice based on the advice of her colleagues in mosquito counties in Monroe, Pasco, and Manatee counties.

For all the information I was able to find, including papers from nearly three years in St. Lucie County, she is a top professional in her field. Retired Indian River Mosquito Control Director Doug Carlson hired her in 2016 to care for her as his successor and recommended her to the board along with many of his staff.

Broda hoped to find Carlson’s successor and postpone a contract until January when Matt Erpenbeck replaces Vocelle, who was defeated in the November election.

I’m not sure a delay was material, but here are some things that make me wonder if Lowther, who has been on the job for six years, and Vocelle, who has finished his fourth year, think enough of the taxpayer.

Carlson emailed me saying he had no records Burroughs “applied” to the job. Your succession is logical, but a professional organization would have a standard for handling internal applications.

What is really shocking, as I noted in a column last week, is that the Commission has no targets or performance standards for its director. What professional needs do you have when you have an employment contract to protect your job?

Maybe that’s how some people run their own businesses, but taxpayers and employees like Burroughs make better money.

On the subject of Taxpayers and Employee Benefits, the good news is that the district doesn’t have to worry about Florida’s recent constitutional amendment that requires a minimum wage of $ 15 an hour. The lowest paid employee, a customer service representative, makes $ 17.09 an hour ($ 35,547), and two people in addition to Carlson and Burroughs make more than $ 100,000 according to a district earnings table.

All of this is enough to make me wonder if the district shouldn’t be dissolved into district government, as is the case in dozens of other districts, including St. Lucie.

Instead, Lowther wants to add two people to the mosquito board. It would make sense if the district was not dissolved and the board members stopped being paid and given perks. Members earn $ 4,800 annually, receive district insurance, and qualify for a state pension.

Enough of mosquitos; Let’s go back to conflicting meetings and serve taxpayers better. Have you noticed, like me, that attendance on the Vero Beach City Council has declined sharply since the meetings with the County Commission were moved from late afternoon or evening to 8:30 a.m. Tuesday?

In the past month, almost no one was there when the council voted 4: 1 for the next step towards creating a rainwater supplier and a rainwater charge, a floundering word for taxes. The council will vote on Tuesday whether to start collecting fees next year.

The meeting time could be great for the city’s staff, the two self-employed people on the council, and their three retirees. But for workers? Or people who do business in front of the district?

It was not long ago that the Council only met on Tuesday evening. Most of the churches I’ve covered in my career, including Treasury Coast cities and school boards, meet at night so workers can participate. I don’t know anyone who meets with a district commission at the same time.

It’s important to keep good people happy. However, in the end we elected government officials and paid most of them to serve us – the taxpayers.

Our representatives should think of us more as they schedule meetings and make decisions.

This column reflects the opinion of Laurence Reisman. Contact him by email at larry.reisman@tcpalm.com, by phone at 772-978-2223, Facebook.com/larryreisman, or Twitter @LaurenceReisman

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