Jan. 16, 2012 - A Mosquito "Control District" in Lee County, FL with a $22-million budget has run up such high expenses that a Florida Representative has filed a bill to abolish the district and shift its responsibilities to the Lee County government. A retired executive director is the 11th highest paid retiree in the Florida State retiree system. He is collecting over $170,000 in retirement income, which is more than any Lake County staff earns working full time. Here is their website. The original article from SunshineStateNews.com is below.
FiscalRangers.com has consistently reported how the state of Florida does not provide adequate business controls or spending guidelines for about 2000 special local government agencies in Florida, including water districts, hospital districts, county and constitutional officer agencies, CRA's ( and now here is a mosquito district that overspends all others in Florida. We have periodically reported fiscal fiascos in Lake County operations, mismanagement or questionable practices in local agencies like the North Lake County Hospital District, and also reported problems found in other Florida Districts, including voter fraud allowed by Election Supervisors, CRA's and hospital districts.
However, this article doesn't provide much information indicating serious problems, other than one legislator commenting about the highly paid retiree and their large budget (which could be justified according to a document on the district's top webpage). At the very least, it seems an independent performance audit is needed, and a salary review to determine if salaries or spending (such as for aircraft purchasing vs leasing) is appropriate.
In some cases, some special districts practice abuse of power, such as the recent issue where the St. Johns River Water Management District arbitrarily shutoff all water flow from Lake Apopka to Lake Dora. They did it purely for water "quality" reasons and are not required to perform an independent, objective economic impact analysis on such decisions.
Basically, Florida State government provides a process for legislators to create these agencies, but there are no clear spending metrics, operational guidelines or periodic State level performance audits to detect problems early. There isn't even a required, independent County wide internal audit function with full audit authority except for a few County Inspector Generals created due to excess corruption.
The next time you meet your local Florida elected official (Rep. or Senator) ask them why they accept any pay from taxpayers when they don't provide adequate oversight on these local organizations. Or, maybe tell them they lost your vote until there is professional oversight and guidance over these organizations.
Additionally, as a result of reviewing this article, we found that Florida Gov. Scott has issued an Executive Order 12-10 "Review of Special Districts" which assigns his Office of Policy & Budget (OPB) to perform a review of ALL 1600 Florida special districts. The Executive Order is HERE. FiscalRangers.com will publish another article on just this Executive Order after I interview some people. HERE is the press release on this OPB assignment.
http://www.sunshinestatenews.com/print/4364746 <<< Go to see article with picture
Lawmaker: Mosquito District Stings Taxpayers in Lee County
Gov. Rick Scott's probe into expenditures at the state's special taxing districts might want to start at Lee County Mosquito Control.
With an annual budget of $22 million, Lee's mosquito district spends more than 46 other mosquito districts -- combined.
"There's no excuse for it," says state Rep. Paige Kreegel, who has introduced legislation that could abolish the district.
Scott last week directed his Office of Policy and Budget to review and make recommendations for cutting costs at some 1,600 special districts levying more than $15 billion in taxes each year.
The governor previously ordered investigations of hospital and water management districts, and has now expanded the scope to all special districts.
Mosquito districts have flown below the political radar because most operate on budgets under $2 million. Even populous counties such as Miami-Dade run their mosquito eradication programs on less than $3 million.
But Lee County, in Southwest Florida, is a glaring exception. With a seven-member elected board and 68 employees, the independent mosquito district's payroll works out to an average of $118,000 per worker.
The district also holds the distinction of having the 11th-highest compensated retiree in the state's pension system. Former executive director T. Wayne Miller, who retired in 1994, currently receives $172,027 a year.
Most counties place mosquito-eradication duties under public works or other departments. Kreegel has found that counties that operate independent districts, such as Lee's, "step up in price to do it."
"The personnel costs are $8 million, and that's a problem" said the Punta Gorda Republican, pointing to Lee's top-heavy staffing. The local mosquito board has two more members than the entire County Commission.
Operationally, Lee's district spends more just on spray, fuel and helicopter maintenance than the total mosquito budgets in neighboring Charlotte or Hendry counties.
Kreegel has introduced House Bill 1395 to require a referendum on the big-spending district. Lee County residents could vote to abolish the district and transfer all assets and liabilities to the Lee County Commission.
Wayne Gale, executive director of the Lee mosquito district, calls HB 1395 "a drastic measure to abolish a district that no local people seem to have a problem with.
"This was pretty much a surprise to us and the county as well.
"We are large because we have the largest mosquito problem in the state," said Gale, who explained that thousands of acres of state-managed salt marshes and islands within the district require aerial treatment.
"No other county has this type of topograghy. We do one-third of all the aerial larvae sightings in the state. Many areas are not accessible by vehicles," Gale said.
Gale reported the district maintains $5 million in reserves for self-insurance and has set aside $1 million for a future hangar.
"We have a lot of expensive aircraft," he noted.
Regarding the pending legislation, Gale said, "We've sent information to the local delegation to answer questions they've had."
Kreegel says "the [district's] defensiveness alone sets off alarms."
Kreegel, a physician, acknowledges it was the Legislature that authorized the creation of mosquito control boards, but says that times have changed.
"Back in the day, the work involved spraying diesel fuel and draining swamps. Now we have a mature industry. The chemicals that are used are generic and relatively inexpensive," he said.
"The governor has shined a light on the situation. It's time the taxpayers got some equity. Let the people vote whether they want this," Kreegel concluded.
Without specifically referencing mosquito boards, Clete Saunier, president of the Florida Association of Special Districts, predicted that the governor's investigation "will affirm that special districts are fiscally responsible, community-focused local government entities.
“Central to the discussions should be that special districts are created upon public demand, and help Floridians when local or state governments were either unable or unwilling to provide crucial services or infrastructure to a community," Saunier said in a statement.
Contact Kenric Ward at firstname.lastname@example.org or at (772) 801-5341.