Brevard Times will be visiting with them throughout the next year as they try to make convincing arguments to Brevard voters.The first slate of candidates to be highlighted is running for Brevard County Commission District 2 – to replace retiring two-term commissioner Chuck Nelson.
Question 1: Name the three biggest challenges facing Brevard County right now.Jim Barfield: 1. Increased costs of retirement/pensions; 2. Increased costs of healthcare insurance; 3. Increase in Medicaid costs.
Tim Harber: Our biggest challenge is keeping Brevard relevant as a destination for business and homeowners. We must maintain a business friendly environment to attract the new companies which will in turn attract new home owners and re-ignite our economy. All areas of the county need to be on equal footing for this to become possible.
Michael Hartman: Our biggest challenge is attracting new businesses and jobs to Brevard. Between Sea Ray and the shuttle program we lost over 11,000 jobs that we have to replace. Second, we need to redirect our budget priorities and repair and upgrade our roadways. We have too many roads that are inadequate for the traffic that flows on them, and others that are unsafe to drive on because of inadequate repairs. Finally, we need to look at reducing the “wants” versus the “needs” funded by government and cut some of the “wants” to reduce the overbearing tax burden placed on our citizens.
Jack Smink: 1. Jobs; 2. Managed growth; 3. Sustaining quality of life while streamlining spending.
Ron Taylor: The challenges are: 1) relieving the financial pressure on our senior citizens and families due to impending increases in taxes and assessments on their homes, 2) overcoming a lack of fiscal responsibility due to underestimating the threat of hyper-inflation in the County budget over the next ten years, and 3) facilitating the growth and startup of small businesses, the real engine of economic growth, in all areas of Brevard County not just in one district. Unfortunately, a cabal of County Commissioners has been fiscally irresponsible and the taxpayers of Brevard County have to pay with THEIR hard earned dollars.
Question 2: If $1 million needed to be cut from the county budget immediately, what spending would you cut and/or what revenue would you raise to match $1 million?
Barfield: First, it is important to look at risk; I would not cut anything that increases risk to public safety and health. Second, I would look at any projects that are funded yet have not started yet; or are at a milestone that could be stopped and started later without cost impacts. Third, I would look at all open positions within the county and delay filling them; again, unless they are a critical position for public safety and health. Fourth, I would eliminate positions resulting in a layoff to make up the difference.Harber: $1M is not much to be trimmed from this budget. Spending cuts would be the obvious answer to reduce the budget and trimming excessive reserve funds would be fairly easy to do. The key to sustaining the budget is to increase revenue by increasing taxable parcels. Brevard County has far too many vacant properties producing little to no income. Make it easier for businesses and homeowners to own and pay taxes.
Hartman: I would choose two departments for immediate cuts: the EELs program and Housing and Human Services. EELs was designed to keep land in its natural state; why do we need so many people (26) to “manage” land that is supposed to be left “natural”? Housing and Human Services costs the County $10,000,000 from General Revenue to provide benefits to citizens of $18,000,000; we need to cut down on its administrative staff. If elected, I will personally go through the budget and staffing of every department; little fractions have a way of adding up to big savings to our taxpayers.Smink: I would first address spending. I would apply business principles such as: streamlining, consolidation of services, minimizing redundancy, modernization, and utilizing managed competition initiatives. Whenever competitive bidding is applied, the taxpayer always wins. I believe in steering the ship – no need to row. Just apply a little common sense, transparency, accountability in our leadership. I also believe we must reduce unnecessary regulations to small business and manufacturing.
Taylor: A shout out… A CABAL OF COMMISSIONERS HAS BLOWN TAX PAYERS HARD EARNED DOLLARS. They spent $6.5 million on new helicopters when viable alternatives used by other Florida counties cost as little as $1 million. Given the real possibility of hyper-inflation, the Waste Management contract fiasco this cabal foisted on county taxpayers has exposed Brevard families and businesses to $1.77-$4.43 million of cost increases due to non-capped inflation adjustments over the life of the contract. As for raising revenue…I vote NO on revenue increases. Instead, we should concentrate on AXE THE TAX and saving the Dream of American home ownership.
Question 3: Should changes be made in the relationship between Brevard County and the EDC, CRA's, and EOZ's?Barfield: EDC: the relationship is fine the way it is. CRA’s: I believe that the County should have more oversight over CRAs. EOZ’s: The Economic Development Zone approach is fine the way it is. The NBEDZ addresses the major impacts associated with the end of the Shuttle program.
Harber: I am not a big fan of our current system because I see no transparency in their operations. There are no performance standards related to their budgets. I would not want to create a new layer of bureaucracy but someone needs to hold these organizations accountable for our tax dollars.Hartman: Two thoughts relating to the EDC: first, the County should fund no more than 50% of their budget; second, we should approve their annual budget utilizing the County contribution. Regarding CRAs and EOZs, I think we need to look at how much of the taxpayer’s money we are ceding control of by having these separate entities. The taxpayers elect the Commissioners to direct how their taxes are spent; why should we be giving their tax dollars to boards that are not elected by the taxpayers? As elected commissioners, we need to control the entire county budget and set spending priorities.
Smink: If we are to run our county government more as a business, we must first understand that Brevard County, as all counties, are in a highly competitive environment, competing for job providing businesses. EDCs and CRAs are tools that, when utilized properly, are very effective. Understanding these tools, and applying accountability with utilization, is imperative.Taylor: This certainly is another great question that will challenge my commitment to fiscal responsibility and the needs of the citizens in Brevard County. Many of the intents of these programs align with my priorities. However, due to the intricacies and different intents of these programs I need to do a lot more homework before I can answer this three part question in a pithy manner. I will provide definitive answers to this one later on in the campaign.
Question 4: Why you?Barfield: I have built a business from scratch, which is recognized as one of the largest military medical services companies in the country. We grew from $0 to $100+ million in annual revenue in 5 years. I have been successful because I understand business principles (profit/loss), the importance of the customer and the importance of understanding risk. Also, I grew up in Rockledge and live in Merritt Island and I raised my family here. I have lived here for 50+ years and have been married to my wife, Darleen for over 33 years.
Harber: As former President of Space Coast Realtors, I speak before the commissioners on a regular basis trying to uphold property ownership rights. I have fought hard to keep millage and tax rates in check, to prevent the re-implementation impacts fees and to make Brevard a financially viable option for business and homeowners. I believe that I am also the only candidate that is involved with Brevard County on any level. I serve on Brevard County Planning and Zoning as well as Local Planning Agency and have done so since 2012. I simply wish to continue the hard work that I am currently doing.Hartman: Why me – because I’m a concerned citizen and businessman. Over the last 20 years, I’ve dealt extensively with numerous local and state bureaucrats. While some are very service oriented, in general I believe the career bureaucrats have forgotten that they work for us the people, not vice versa. When it comes to serving the people, I don’t accept “We can’t do that” for an answer. My next question is “Then what do we have to change to be able to do that for our citizens?” Elect me, and I will fight for you and your freedom from overbearing government.
Smink: About a year ago I made a commitment based on my skill sets, business experiences, and life experiences. I shut down my existing business and embarked on a journey to become more knowledgeable about this county and the details within the framework of county government. My ultimate goal is to have the opportunity to serve my fellow Brevard County citizens. I chose to run for the position of Brevard County Commissioner because, after looking at the responsibilities of that position, believe that this job is a perfect fit for me.Taylor: I’m a fiscally responsible voice who understands our senior citizens on fixed incomes and our families with children are being squeezed by rising costs for food and other basic needs. I’m an advocate for an endangered species….the American middle class. We are a nation built on a Dream…a Dream that our children will live a better life than ourselves. That Dream is in danger. I will protect your home. I will protect your children’s education. I will help you start a new business to support your family. I will keep the American Dream alive. Join me to Rebuild the Dream!
For more information on these candidates, refer to http://www.votebrevard.com/index.php?id=468.