About five years ago, Bradenton Herald reporters asked a fairly straightforward question of Manatee County officials: Where are the impact fees collected from developers being spent?
At the time, county officials shrugged and pointed the reporters to boxes and boxes of miscellaneous reports and untallied data. The Herald published a critical series showing that county officials had no formal tracking system for the collection and spending of impact fees, or for the impact fee credits being given various developers. In a time of fevered development, that was particularly startling.
Fast-forward to today’s stalled economy, with some of the same county officials at the helm. Reporter Nick Azzara asked the same question late last year -– and the results were disturbingly the same. Now, after months of queries and tabulations, County Administrator Ed Hunzeker and Commissioner Joe McClash say they recognize the need for accountability.
In today's article, Azzara examines the numbers that McClash gathered for his own document. McClash says he used audited numbers from the annual budget reports for the past 21 years to compile his document, but the report itself is unaudited and could contain errors. Why the reluctance to turn the report over to an auditor?
These are your public monies, not some private business investment. (To see how much the document states has been collected and spent in your district, go to this online map.) Manatee County residents and developers alike deserve accurate answers.
Over the next months, the Herald will continue to examine how millions of dollars should be tracked and spent -– especially in this tough economy.