By Anne Geggis
Plans to strengthen the headwalls that lift cars above stormwater and canal culverts have crashed into the COVID-19 crisis, just like projects that would update Caporella Park and improve drainage to the Everglades.
More than $1 million in state funding for Tamarac’s capital projects vanished into nothingness with one swift stroke of Gov. Ron DeSantis’ veto pen June 29. But the city is in plenty of company: DeSantis vetoed $1 billion from the state budget, hitting everything from a program that helps blind babies to general aid to local governments.
Other North Broward cities have also felt the sting. Coral Springs lost $350,000 for parks and recreation security and its Westside project and Parkland lost $100,000 for stormwater drainage improvements.
Tamarac City Manager Mike Cernech said that the projects that lost the state funding will still get done — but it might take a little longer than anticipated.
“I was a little surprised by the size and the breadth of the governor’s veto but it’s typical of what we should expect now that everyone is grappling the economic impact of this pandemic,” Cernech said.
He theorized the pandemic’s continuing effects have created an uncertainty that has officials everywhere hoarding as much cash as they can.
State revenues are $1.45 billion lower than estimates made before the virus required the shutdown of nonessential businesses earlier this year, according to the Miami Herald. Credit agency Moody’s predicts that Florida, which depends on state sales taxes and tourist dollars, will be $8 billion in the hole from the disease that can be avoided entirely only by staying away from the infected, the newspaper reported.
Tamarac was on track to nearly double last year’s state appropriation for capital improvements when the funding was yanked away.
“We try to align our appropriation requests so that it’s easy for them to fund the things we ask for,” Cernech said.
For Tamarac, the state spending budget had included:
- $400,000 for accommodations for the disabled to be included in the current $4 million upgrade of Caporella Park.
- $400,000 for culvert headwall improvements.
- $250,000 to upgrade the drainage to the C-14 Canal.
Cernech said it’s not as if the city can decide not to shore up its headwalls that bear the weight of passing cars. Capital improvements are scheduled five years out, coming from a $133 million fund that dwarfs that state appropriation. So, Tamarac residents shouldn’t notice a difference because of the drop in state funding, he said.
“We’ve designed this to deliver the projects that the city commission has approved and committed to,” he said. “I don’t think the average Tamarac citizen is going to know the difference unless they were interested in the project and will notice the project getting delayed.”
Cernech said that the uncertainty has officials at every level unsettled about what’s going to happen next.
“We’re four months into this (pandemic) and you’re seeing the highest rates of COVID sickness,” he said. “You’re seeing … everyone holding onto the cash they have in anticipation of this going on for the foreseeable future. It’s frighting for everyone and everyone is trying to get their arms around it.”
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- Anne Geggis has been a newspaper reporter for 30 years, most recently at the Sun Sentinel. She graduated from St. Michael’s College in Colchester, Vt., with a double major in journalism and sociology.
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