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Florida's State Support Budget for Mosquito Control: Tough Times May Undermine Florida Public Health

Mosquito control is Florida’s first line of defense against the ravages of mosquito-borne diseases such as West Nile encephalitis, St. Louis encephalitis, eastern encephalitis, dengue and many others. Protecting Florida’s citizens from mosquitoes is serious business. About $160 million is spent annually in Florida for mosquito control. Most of this money is from county funds or ad-valorem taxes derived from a millage rate set by the local mosquito control program. A small, but very important part of the funds come from the state in ~ $2.16 million annually as state aid to local mosquito control and $250,000 in support of Florida’s mosquito control research program. The state aid for mosquito control is generated by Waste Tire Fees that are provided to the Florida Solid Waste Management Trust Fund. See the inset for language concerning these funds for mosquito control (Florida Chapter 403.709). The waste tire fees for mosquito control are transferred from Florida’s Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to Florida’s Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (DACS) to manage under Florida Statutes Chapter 388 sections 261, 271, 281. The administration of these funds can be found in Florida Administrative Rule 5E-13 sections 022, 030, 031. The state aid for mosquito control has been essential in supporting and maintaining Florida mosquito control programs (MCPs) and the significance of the Florida Mosquito Control Research Program cannot be overstated (Tabachnick, WJ. 2008. Florida mosquito control research program. BuzzWords 8(2): 6-7). The state has provided ~ $37,000 annually to each DACS approved MCP.

Why is state aid to mosquito control so important? Although the amount of support provided by the state may be only a small percent of a large MCP budget (~ 0.1% - 3%), the state funds allow greater freedom for these programs than provided by their local budgets. For example, many MCPs use state funds in various ways to control mosquito production sites that may include providing training and professional development for their employees. This training is essential for employees to obtain continuing education credits (CEUs) to maintain Public Health Pest Control certification and maintaining the high level of professionalism in the Florida mosquito control community. State aid is instrumental in facilitating and maintaining the superb Florida network of MCPs, the professional development of their staff, their ability to participate and take advantage of FMCA activities, MCP ability to coordinate operations and many activities to control mosquito production. The impact of state aid to small MCPs is crucial. These funds may represent a substantial portion of the budget of small MCPs that may influence a county to provide county support for mosquito control.

These are tough economic times, and all aspects of Florida’s budget are under scrutiny. Florida’s economy is in dire straits with severe consequences forecast for state services. Last year state aid to mosquito control and the state supported mosquito control research program were targeted for reductions. Both were saved through efforts of the FMCA and Chris Lyon of Lewis, Longman &Walker, P.A. A strong case for maintaining funding was made with legislators in Tallahassee (Tabachnick, WJ. The importance of Florida Mosquito Control Associations Tallahassee days. BuzzWords 8(3): 10-11).

Proposed reductions in state aid to mosquito control. At the Fall 2008 meeting of the FMCA, Steve Dwinell, Assistant Director of the DACS Division of Agriculture and Environmental Services presented Division plans for meeting the next expected shortfall in Florida’s budget. Michael Page, Bureau Chief, DACS Bureau of Entomology and Pest Control, made a similar presentation to mosquito control Directors and Commissioners at the meeting. The Division plan has dire consequences for Florida and Florida mosquito control. Mr. Dwinell explained that the Department has been told not to make across-the-board reductions and he explained that the Division was told to protect revenue producing programs. The DACS division where mosquito control resides decided there was only one non-revenue generating program – you guessed it, it is state aid for mosquito control. Therefore the planned cuts for the entire Division are being borne entirely by the mosquito control funds that are generated by the revenue producing fees on tires! Note that funds provided for state aid are not from general revenue sources, they come from the tire fees that will still be collected, but they will be directed elsewhere. DACS proposes a 50% reduction in state aid to mosquito control and the complete elimination of DACS funding for mosquito control research. The plan is to provide remaining state aid to Florida MCPs having annual budgets less than $1 million since the funds represent a greater portion of these budgets. Make no mistake, the proposed cuts to mosquito control are draconian and will change Florida mosquito control capabilities for the worse.

The impact of reductions in state aid. FMCA has voiced strong objections to the DACS plan. The Florida Coordinating Council on Mosquito Control (FCCMC) voiced strong objections when the plan was presented at the Council meeting in October 2008. The FCCMC passed several recommendations including discussion requesting that DACS prepare a different plan for presentation at the next Council meeting in February (go to http://consensus.fsu.edu/MC/pdfs/FCCMC_Report_Oct08b.doc for minutes of the October meeting). Taking the entire Division cuts on the back of mosquito control is unjustified and ill advised considering the importance of mosquito control to the state and the potential impact of such drastic cuts on public health and well-being. A reduction in state aid for mosquito control will result in less training, less travel between MCPs, less inter-MCP communications, reduced ability to reduce mosquito production sites, and the demise of DACS support for the mosquito control research program. This is at the very same time when both FMCA and the FCCMC urge more Volume 8 Number 6 10 Nov/Dec 2008 training, more statewide communications, and more mosquito control research. The DACS proposal with priority to protect “revenue generating programs” requires further discussion, evaluation and reconsideration by the Agency.

Mosquito control is widely recognized as essential to protect Florida’s tourism industry. Mosquito control is often taken for granted but it does greatly contribute to the hospitable environment that induces people to move to Florida and hence supports Florida’s housing industry. Hence, though mosquito control does not directly generate revenues for DACS, it is essential to the well-being of Florida’s economy. It is unwise to risk effective mosquito control at a time when Florida needs tourism and a vibrant housing industry more than ever. It is unfortunate that the current tough times will require reductions in many state services. However, state support for mosquito control must be maintained and even modestly increased if the state hopes for economic recovery. The meager state support for mosquito control provides an essential service to Florida, using fees that do not impact general revenues in the state budget. The effects on Florida far outweigh the cost to the state and any conceivable savings that might be accrued by these drastic cuts. The proposed reduction in this small program will greatly increase the chances of dire consequences through losses in mosquito control professionalism, communications and effectiveness.

Florida mosquito control has already lost the state program to control dog flies ($250,000) that was also available to assist other regions of Florida during mosquito-transmitted disease outbreaks. Does it make any sense to risk the effectiveness of Florida mosquito control at a time when Florida is at increasingly great risk from mosquitoborne pathogens and nuisance mosquitoes? Just consider some recent events. In the aftermath of Tropical Storm Fay in 2008, DACS conducted emergency mosquito control in several counties using $1.2 million from FEMA. Clearly mosquito control is high priority to the Agency since emergency mosquito control was conducted with tax payer funds, be it federal or state. At the very time of the Fall 2008 FMCA meeting, many Florida state agencies participated in a table top exercise in Tallahassee on a hypothetical Rift Valley Fever outbreak! Does it make sense to reduce Florida’s state aid for mosquito control at the same time that Florida is preparing against new mosquitoborne pathogens? Does it make sense to reduce state aid while Florida provides emergency mosquito control at more cost than the proposed reduction but with no benefit to Florida’s mosquito control infrastructure? State aid to mosquito control comes from waste tire fees that are part of the Florida’s Solid Waste Management Trust Fund. These fees will continue to be collected despite DACS’ plan. Although mosquito control does not generate the tire fees, the program is based on the well known relationship between mosquito production and waste tires. The significance of this appears to have been lost. So what happens to the waste tire fees if mosquito control’s portion is reduced? In the 2008 budget cycle a portion of the reduction proposed for state aid to mosquito control was due to a reduction that DEP was to transfer to DACS! Mosquito control is essential to Florida, and state aid is important to maintain it. Sadly, though waste tire fees will continue to be collected, the funds will be used for other unspecified purposes and public health will be at risk.

Options for state aid for mosquito control:
What are some guiding principles that need to be considered during this time of budget constraints?

  • Mosquito control is too important for Florida to impose draconian reductions.
  • Mosquito control is too important to be reduced, despite it not being considered by DACS as a direct revenue generating program. The tire fees generate the revenues for mosquito control state aid. Plans to redirect waste tire fees elsewhere should be closely scrutinized.
  • The mosquito control research program has been the basis for successful effective, efficient and environmentally sound Florida mosquito control. Any reduction is unacceptable. The program should receive an increase to make it more effective and widespread.

What are some options to more effectively utilize Florida’s state aid for local mosquito control?

    • DACS should develop a written plan for the FCCMC outlining options for any change in state aid for mosquito control.
    • Counties desiring state aid should provide details to DACS on the specifics of how the state aid will be used to promote mosquito control per Chapter 388.271 and administered by DACS following Rule 5E-13.
    • All MCP requests for state aid should be reviewed by DACS (or a Committee appointed by DACS) and approved only when the requests meets stated requirements.
    • Some MCPs may not qualify; some MCPs may voluntarily relinquish state aid. This provides opportunities to distribute state aid in new ways that would improve Florida mosquito control.
    • State aid could be used to induce increases in local support for mosquito control, i.e., DACS could set a minimum per capita local contribution in support for mosquito control as a condition to receive state funds, i.e., an annual minimum of $2-3 per capita.
      • Currently in the 29 largest Florida MCPs, with an annual budget above $1 million, the average annual per capita local cost for mosquito control is ~. $27.
      • The annual per capita cost for the 28 MCPs with annual budgets below $1 million is ~$4.75.
      • There are 16 MCPs with an annual budget of less than $100,000. Their annual budget for mosquito control is just $1.89 per person!
      • There are 17 counties providing less than $2 per person for their mosquito control programs and 14 additional counties providing no local mosquito control.
Florida Statutes Chapter 403.709 Solid Waste Management Trust Fund; use of waste tire fees.— There is created the Solid Waste Management Trust Fund, to be administered by the Department. From the annual revenues deposited in the trust fund, unless otherwise specified in the General Appropriations’ Act. …….
(3) Up to 11 percent shall be used for funding to supplement any other fund provided by DACs for mosquito control. This distribution shall be annually transferred to the General Inspection Trust Fund in the DACS to be used for mosquito control, especially the control of West Nile virus. ……..
(e) At least 10 percent of the revenues deposited in the fund annually from waste tire fees shall be allocated as additional grants to local mosquito control agencies in accordance with s. 388.261 for the specific purpose of abating and providing mosquito control relating to waste tire sites, other tire piles, and other sites identified by local mosquito control agencies as mosquito breeding areas. Only local mosquito control agencies approved by DACS may receive funds pursuant to this paragraph
  • State funds should be used to increase DACS support for the state program for mosquito research to at least $300,000.
  • Florida’s laboratories supporting mosquito control and FMCA have received substantial budget reductions with more to come in this budget year. State support from the state aid program would be invaluable assist in offsetting some of these budget reductions. The looming loss to Florida’s laboratory infrastructure is a potential catastrophe that will take decades to recover from.
  • State funds should be provided to support Florida mosquito control activities such as training through the Dodd Short Courses, Mosquito Fly-In, courses at the two Florida laboratories, and support of FMCA publications like the mailings of BuzzWords.

This is a moment of truth for Florida mosquito control to show the significance of mosquito control in protecting Florida. The proposed severe cuts will reduce Florida’s mosquito and mosquito-borne disease control capabilities with consequences that far outweigh the savings to the state budget. Mosquito control must defend its importance, its cost effectiveness, and how much MCPs deliver for the low cost to the state budget. Mosquito control must urge DACS to develop plans that will allocate state funds in a way that will have even greater impact on Florida mosquito control and Florida than how funds have been historically distributed. Florida mosquito control must be aggressive in defending the state funds, and must be aggressive in ensuring that these essential resources are adequate to meet mosquito control’s historic responsibility to protect Florida.

Tallahassee legislative days will be critical this year!

Walter J. Tabachnick, Ph.D.
Florida Medical Entomology Laboratory
Professor, Department of Entomology and Nematology
University of Florida, IFAS
Vero Beach, Florida