lake helen city hall
MANY WINDOWS — Lake Helen City Hall is shown during a city event. A project to replace the historic hall’s windows and roof made the TaxWatch budget “turkey” list for 2022.

At least 10 specific and particular appropriations for Volusia County in the state’s new budget have earned Florida TaxWatch’s distinction as “turkeys,” and the group recommends Gov. Ron DeSantis ax them.

Each year, Florida TaxWatch, a privately funded government-watchdog organization, examines the draft budget approved by the Legislature and lists local projects due to receive state appropriations, unless the governor vetoes them. Not all local projects fall into TaxWatch’s turkey category. For the state’s 2022-23 budget of $112.1 billion, the organization has singled out 166 “turkeys,” whose grand total of state funding amounts to $281 million.

TaxWatch’s latest turkey report notes the following:

“Budget Turkeys are items, usually local member projects, placed in individual line items … that are added to the final appropriations bill without being fully scrutinized and subjected to the budget process,” the report reads. “The Budget Turkey label does not signify judgment of a project’s worthiness … While a project may be worthwhile, Budget Turkeys tend to serve a limited (not statewide) area, are often not core functions of government, are most appropriately funded with local or private dollars, and can circumvent competitive bidding or selection as well as oversight and accountability.”

Although the Legislature adjourned its annual general session in mid-March, final action by DeSantis on the new budget is still pending.

“They [the Legislature] haven’t given it to him yet,” Kurt Wenner, staff TaxWatch researcher, told The Beacon.

When the governor does receive the finished product of the state’s House of Representatives and Senate, “he has 15 days to act on it,” Wenner said.

The possible actions are to sign the budget into law with no changes; to veto the entire document; or, more likely, to use his line-item veto power to delete certain appropriations.

Wenner predicted the Florida Legislature will actually give the final version of the spending plan to DeSantis this month.

The Volusia projects getting TaxWatch’s attention and the state’s share of funding this year are:

— Deltona, sewage transfer to Volusia County, $500,000
— Daytona Beach, Pump Station 90, $250,000
— Oak Hill, septic-to-sewer project, $3 million
— Daytona Beach, reclaimed-water transmission line, $650,000
— Daytona Beach, veterans museum and education center, $126,000
— Ormond Beach, septic-tank conversion, $532,000
— Ormond Beach, ultraviolet disinfection for water, $1.5 million
— Port Orange, sewage-system rehabilitation, $750,000
— Lake Helen, historic City Hall roof and windows replacement, $180,000
— New Smyrna Beach, Woman’s Club stabilization and restoration, $500,000.

The combined amount of state funding sought for these earmarked items is $7,988,000.

One of the projects TaxWatch classifies as a turkey affects Rep. Webster Barnaby’s hometown, Deltona.

The city wants the $500,000 sewage-transfer project, which would transmit wastewater from Deltona to the county’s Southwest Wastewater Treatment Plant in DeBary, so that Deltona could mothball the aging Fisher Drive plant. The Florida Department of Environmental Protection last year ordered Deltona to upgrade the latter facility, after it allegedly failed to meet state standards for the amounts of nitrogen in the wastewater. The state agency could fine the city for the shortcomings.

Barnaby said he is “hopeful” all of his local projects will survive scrutiny by the governor.

Two of his local line items, for example, were not labeled turkeys. During the annual session, Barnaby sought and obtained for DeBary $1.2 million for that city’s planned fire station on Fort Florida Road and $750,000 for stormwater projects.

“I am excited to bring home the bacon. I am proud to serve the people of Volusia County,” he told a post-session gathering of the West Volusia Regional Chamber of Commerce.

Barnaby, elected from House District 27, is running for re-election to the Florida Legislature. This year, he is locked in a primary battle against fellow Republican Rep. Elizabeth Fetterhoff, who now represents House District 26. The reapportionment puts both Barnaby and Fetterhoff in the new House District 29.


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