The district board Thursday evening gave initial approval to a $619 million budget for the agency that protects drinking water supplies, guards against flooding and leads Everglades restoration in a 16-county region stretching from Orlando to the Keys.
The district’s new tax rate would be about 41 cents per $1,000 of taxable property value.
At that rate for a home valued at $230,000 and eligible for a $50,000 homestead exemption, district taxes for a property owner in Broward or Palm Beach counties would be about $74 a year. That's about $3 less than the previous tax rate. Last year, the decrease equated to about a $2 per year cut.
The district has faced steep budget cuts under Gov. Rick Scott, who appoints the district’s nine board members.
The district in 2011 had its budget cut by more than $100 million, resulting in more than 100 layoffs. The Legislature in 2012 eased caps it had imposed on the districts' tax rates, but didn't restore the district to previous funding levels.
Environmental groups have raised concerns that the cutbacks at the district threaten to hamper already backlogged Everglades restoration efforts.
Those efforts are growing more expensive as the state pursues an $880 million Everglades water pollution cleanup plan, as well as the $1.8 billion Central Everglades plan that seeks to get more water flowing from Lake Okeechobee to the Everglades.
District Board Member Glenn Waldman, who represents Broward County, cast the only vote against the proposed budget, raising concerns that employee pay at the district has not kept pace with cost of living increases and rising health care expenses.
The West Palm Beach-based water management district has about 1,600 employees
The district board takes its final budget vote Sept. 24.