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Water Management District Cutting Budgets

August 24th, 2011 by Mike Vasilinda

State lawmakers and the Governor took away the five water management districts ability to set their own budgets, forcing them to cut 210 million in taxing authority and have their budgets approved at the Capitol. Today, those budgets got their first approval, but as Mike Vasilinda tells us, environmentalists believe massive cuts could end up hurting the water that comes out of the tap.

Water managers across Florida are putting their best face forward on budget cuts totaling seven hundred million dollars. The cuts include a 210 million dollar reduction in property taxes.

For the first time, those budgets must be approved by the state. The approval came Wednesday.

Gone are land acquisitions and hundreds of employees.

“Downsizing an organization is never easy, because these are our friends, these are our colleagues,” Herschel Vineyard, Department of Environmental Protection Secretary, said.

Afterward, District managers reiterated they could do the job with far fewer dollars.

“We can no longer be the agency that everyone turns to, to say, this is a pet project that we want done–fund it,” Melissa Meeker with the South Florida Water Management District said. “Historically, we had the funding to do that.”

“I don’t see where we are at all neglecting the environmental side,” Hugh Gramling, with the Southwest Florida Water Management District said. “We’re picking and choosing because of a limited budget.”

But water shortages and restrictions are already in effect across the entire peninsula of Florida.

With water supplies already slim, environmentalists worry that these budget cuts will start impacting what comes out of the tap.

“I hope the voters look past the political promises of this 700 million dollar budget savings and ask the question, which is, in a couple of years, is my water going to be clean? Am I actually going to have water when I turn on my tap?” Eric Draper, Executive Director of Audubon of Florida said.

In addition to the 210-million-dollar saving, water managers are also forgoing 500 million in water improvement projects.

While the Governor has signed off on the budgets, state lawmakers also must give their approval and districts could see further cuts.

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