One definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over while expecting different results.
The Okaloosa County Commission is by definition dysfunctional, corrupt or both. Any governmental unit that believes a 47% budget increase over the space of a mere five years is defensible has rocks in their head. That the Commission managed to paint over this by drawing down reserves when the cause was not a one-year hit from an event like a hurricane (which is what reserves are for) ought to be treated as criminal corruption and result in the incarceration of everyone involved.
The “escalating” expenses in the budget this year alone are primarily (1) reserve restoration (that is, paying back what the commission took through gross mismanagement), (2) adding to said reserves (possibly arguably ok), (3) more law enforcement (big shock) and (4) insane health care cost escalations.
If Okaloosa County wishes to improve its economic attractiveness it must address these issues along with the outrageous actions and inactions by the Commission not only over previous years, but on a forward basis.
Like many if not most counties Okaloosa County’s ad-valorem tax revenue almost exclusively goes to the Sheriff’s Office (and related expenditures, such as the county jail.) This is not unusual; there are in fact counties where more than 100% of ad-valorem revenue goes to law enforcement. If you’re wondering why county sheriffs like to write tickets, well, you just figured it out since traffic fines of course offset some of their ad-valorem tax demand.
But in this county, as in other tourist areas, there’s a problem: The majority of services provided by the Sheriff’s Office, most of which are quite-mundane (e.g. traffic accidents, etc) involve and are provided to tourists. The issue is that tourists pay almost zero ad-valorem tax; while if they rent someone’s condo that person does pay the tax they only occupy the building for a tiny part of the year and thus on a pro-rata basis, that is, on a per-capita/year basis, they pay almost nothing.
Yet on a per-capita/year basis tourists form the majority of the Sheriff Department’s load.
This post was published at Market-Ticker on 2017-09-23.