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South Florida water managers flipflop on tax cut

At a hastily called meeting Friday, South Florida water managers voted to cut taxes, reversing a nearly unanimous decision made just two weeks ago.

All but one member, plus newly appointed Homestead farmer Sam Accursio, voted eight to one to undo a move that would have maintained the South Florida Water Management District’s tax rate, which drew wide public support. The new decision eliminates about $21 million from the district’s $754 million budget, forcing the district to pull more than $7 million from reserves.

Sandy Batchelor-Robjohns, chairman of the Miami Beach-based Batchelor Foundation, remained the lone holdout, arguing that “we’re chipping away at the financial foundation of this great agency.”

The decision marks the fifth year in a row the agency has bowed to pressure from Tallahassee to cut taxes, even as Everglades restoration picks up speed and sea rise projections predict more stress on the 16-county district.

In changing their decision, board members said the state needs to take a bigger role in footing the bill. Next year, the district expects to spend half its budget, or about $371 million, said executive director Blake Guillory, on restoration work that stretches from the Kissimmee River south to Biscayne Bay. Of that, the state pays the district $181 million, with about $126 million going toward Everglades work.