DeSantis passes 2022-23 state budget
On June 2, Gov. Ron DeSantis passed the state’s $109.9 billion budget for Fiscal Year 2022-2023
It includes more than $40 billion in federal funding and a record $1.24 billion in tax relief for Floridians. It also called for $3.1 billion in line-item vetoes from the original document approved by the state legislature in the spring– a new state record.
But this year, the governor did not veto any projects in Gulf County.
County Administrator Michael Hammond said officials were particularly excited to see funding for a new Gulf County airport included in the state’s budget after having their appropriations for the project vetoed by the governor last year.
“The airport money made it, which is good,” he said. “That’ll get that ball rolling.”
“And I thought they would cut it, because it actually got cut last year. We asked for $1 million last year, and they cut it to $500,000, and then they vetoed it.”
This time around, the project was awarded $975,000, which the county administrator said will not be near the airport’s final budget.
But the county plans to spend the money producing feasibility studies and designs in order to get the project moving along, typical first steps when building a project of this scale.
“I don’t know what the end price will be. It may be $20 million. It may be $30 million. It may be 10 years. It may be three years. But (the) St. Joe (Company) is putting up the property, and I think we’ve pretty much tied down that the north extent is going to be somewhere around the Dynamite DocK Road.”
The airport will not be large enough to accommodate large commercial airplanes, but with a growing aerospace industry in the area and the ability to attract private jets, county officials say the airport could generate large amounts of revenue.
“We’ll be moving forward with the public private partnership, and we’ll try to get it designed and get some DOT funding to actually build it,” said Hammond.
Several other county projects receiving state allocations in 2022-23 were announced by DeSantis as he made his way through the state’s panhandle counties in late 2021.
“Of course our biggest project was the water and sewer, which is about $36 million,” Hammond said. “But that was in the governor’s plan. It was in year two of the three year plan, and so it was very unlikely he was going to veto that, but you never know until you get it funded.”
This water and sewer funding was announced by the governor as part of a statewide Flooding Resilience Plan, ahead of the 2022 state legislative session. The funding was ultimately passed by the state legislature.
County Engineer Clayton Smallwood said in December that the funds would go towards relocating many of the county’s water infrastructure to be further from the coast.
The 2022-23 budget also allocates millions of dollars for other projects in Gulf County, including more than $2 million for road improvements through the Small County Resurface Assistance Program.
“We had two big road projects that were kind of hold-overs from the year before,” Hammond said.
Those funds will be spent on Borders Road from Jarrott Daniels Road to CR 386, and the Stebel Drive and Charles Avenue loop.
Two allocations were made for the T.H. Stone Memorial St. Joseph Peninsula Park – $224,000 for repairs and $2,843,257 for new development.
Constitution Convention Museum State Park also received two allocations – $990,000 for repairs and $358,000 for new development.
The Public Schools Workforce Education Program received $81,688, and the Gulf Adults with Disabilities Program received $35,000. School Readiness Services received $429,328, and a voluntary prekindergarten program was allocated $186,941.
The Port Theater received $436,845 towards their repairs and renovations of the historic landmark.