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South Florida water managers approve $750 million budget

The South Florida Water Management District approved a tax cut and a $750 million budget on Tuesday that set in motion a summer controversy that cost the district its executive director and his chief of staff.

In about eight minutes, board members — most participating in the West Palm Beach meeting by phone — approved a rollback rate that will save taxpayers about $7.28 on a house valued at $250,000 and cause the district to dip into reserves to cover costs. Only board member Sandy Batchelor, who has repeatedly warned that five years of tax cuts have left the 16-county district too anemic, voted no.

Leading up to the hearing, environmentalists had fought hard to keep the district’s rate the same, providing about $21 million in additional taxes. At a July hearing, the board voted to maintain the tax rate, defying a standing order from Gov. Rick Scott to cut taxes. Two weeks later, board members reconvened to undo the vote, with only Batchelor, head of the Miami-Beach based Batchelor Foundation, continuing to vote no.

Earlier this month, the district’s chief of staff, Dan DeLisi resigned without including a reason in his resignation. Within a week, board chairman Dan O’Keefe announced that Executive Director Blake Guillory was also out, replaced by Scott’s former general counsel, Pete Antonacci.

At Tuesday’s eight-minute hearing, board members voted without comment.