Commission unmoved by call for transportation dollars

Historic City News reporters are disappointed to report that when St Johns County Commissioner Bill McClure pled his case for at least two other commissioners to join him in giving direction to the county administrator, Michael Wanchick, to better provide for transportation roadway maintenance and repaving; his concerns fell on deaf ears.

Despite politically motivated claims by County Commission Chairman Jay Morris, designed to send the false message that “all is well” to those undecided voters he desperately needs to get himself re-elected August 26th, the truth is that the core services of government have been supplanted by shiny toys and grandiose pet construction projects — unnecessary by many residents standards.

“We are creating a looming infrastructure crisis by refusing to properly replenish the Transportation Trust Fund,” McClure told Historic City News. “Deferred maintenance of our roads creates safety hazards and diminishes the quality of life for all St Johns County residents and visitors. If we don’t provide for that funding now, don’t expect the money to magically materialize after the elections.”

The county’s budget director, Doug Timms, informed McClure that, under the proposed budget, all capital improvement projects and maintenance projects will have to come before the Board, as they are requested. McClure persisted in the question, seemingly surprised to be told by Timms, “That’s something we’ll have to look at a later date.”

Sadly, Commissioners Bennett, Stephenson, Sanchez, and Morris, all seemed to surrender to Wanchick and Timms — even on an issue as critical as this.

The elephant in the room being that, if staff were to meet their responsibility to budget for the road maintenance that has been deferred in prior years, they would have to either raise the millage rate, casting a pall over Morris and Sanchez’ dreams of re-election, or, eliminate spending on pet projects that stroke their egos — and those of special interests.

“If you wanted a better budget, feel free to present a new line item budget,” McClure was admonished by his fellow commissioners. The insult is typical of the juvenile antics that have caused so much mistrust by the public in recent years.

“A county commissioner shouldn’t have to be a budget analyst, we have staff for that,” McClure observed. “We came into the budget workshop today to inform the public.”

Historic City News found that the Board’s budget staff, including Timms, who earns a $109,628 annual salary, plus benefits, his assistant director, Jesse Dunn, who earns a $78,445 salary, backed up with two budget analysts, Andrea Matzke, earning $47,883 and Lauren Falcey, earning $43,190; should be sufficient to deliver the annual budget. That is especially true when you consider that each of the constitutional officers and many county department, has one or more accounting staff members that support the budgeting process.

The tentative millage rate was passed by a vote of 4-1, with McClure dissenting. The budget process for Fiscal Year 2015 continues with public hearings – the first hearing is scheduled for 5:01 p.m. on September 3, 2014. If you are planning to attend, and you should, the hearing will be held on the first floor of the County Administration Palace, located at 500 San Sebastian View in St Augustine.

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