Florida Mosquito Control During the Florida Budget Crisis
The U. S. economy is in dire straits, and we in Florida have already experienced deep financial shortfalls in the Florida state budget. We continue to experience budget reductions in state services and this is likely to continue for the next several months. The Florida DACS plan to meet budget reductions includes a drastic cut in Florida state aid to mosquito control, and one DACS plan included eliminating the Florida mosquito control research program (See Tabachnick, WJ. 2009. Buzzwords 8(6): 8-11).
At the recent 2009 FMCA Dodd Short Course, Mike Page, Bureau Chief, DACS Bureau of Entomology and Pest Control shared a revised DACS budget plan with the attending Mosquito Control Commissioners and Mosquito Control Directors. Though this revised DACS plan provides full restoration of the $250,000 mosquito control research program, it is still based on the draconian 50% reduction in state aid to mosquito control statewide. Therefore providing funds for mosquito control research out of the remaining total will only further reduce the state aid to local districts.
The strong support from Florida Mosquito Control for the research program has been gratifying. The revised DACS plan, restoring research is testimony to this overwhelming support. Each year the Florida Coordinating Council on Mosquito Control seeks to establish priorities for needed research. The Council has representatives from the varied Florida mosquito control stakeholders, including representatives of the Florida research labs at FMEL and PHEREC, and mosquito control district Directors. There are many opportunities for Florida mosquito control to provide input about their needs for more research. The scientists at both FMEL and PHEREC listen to the needs that are expressed to them at meetings, such as at the FMCA meeting, the Dodd Short Courses, or through telephone and e-mails. Concerns about needed research can be shared with the FMCA Research Advisory Committee through the Committee Chair, Ed Fussell, who is also a member of the Council. All information is brought to bear to establish priorities so that the meager research funds address legitimate and significant statewide issues.
Mosquito control Directors should continually provide input to the process, continually review how the process is working, and provide their ideas to the Council on how to improve the process. Table 1 shows the research areas that the Council has considered in 2007, 2008, and 2009 and the rankings to establish priorities. The Council priority rankings are very important in the actual selection of projects to receive state funds as part of the research program. The rankings are provided to the DACS Research Committee for their deliberations on the proposals submitted for funding. They consider the priority of the project using the Council rankings, along with the quality of the proposal’s science, statewide impact, and chance of success, among other criteria, to select the few proposals that can be supported with the available funds. The intent is to support high priority quality research, while ensuring that less well designed projects are not supported simply on the basis of priority. The priority ranking of essential issues has been consistent over the past three years signifying the continued importance of the issues to Florida. The same issues are always among the top 5-7. This by no means agreement that the other issues are not important. They are. Unfortunately there is just not enough research dollars to be sure these can be addressed each year. DACS, the Coordinating Council and the scientists submitting proposals greatly appreciate the excellent job by the members of the Selection Committee (Dan Kline, Chair; Doria Bowers, Gary Clark, Jonathan Hornby, Zack Prusak, Eric Schreiber, Jeff Stivers, and Ruide Xue). They have a very difficult task, reviewing proposals, and then meeting to achieve consensus on which should be funded.
I hope that more Mosquito Control Directors share their thoughts on mosquito control research needs with the Coordinating Council, the FMCA Research Advisory Committee, members of the FMEL and PHEREC. It is essential that the Council list of potential research issues is complete and represents the needs.
We can improve on the Florida Mosquito Control Research Program with everyone’s input. It is essential and urgent that we also need to protect and improve on state aid to mosquito control districts. The revised DACS plan will savage the state aid program. Everyone needs to put March 17-18, 2009 on their calendars. These are the dates for FMCA’s Tallahassee Days this year when we alert the Florida Legislature of the importance of the mosquito control state aid program and the mosquito control research program. I cannot overstate the importance of this year’s Tallahassee Days to the future for Florida mosquito control. This is about the future of mosquito control in Florida, and ability of mosquito control to protect Florida’s health and well being. The loss of the state mosquito control funds will have dire consequences with potential for negative impact on public health with consequences to Florida’s overall economy. A mosquito-borne disease outbreak will have an impact on tourism and housing. We would be professionally remiss in not calling attention to the consequences of the proposed budget cuts. It is time when we must all step up. We need to have a huge showing in Tallahassee this year. Please plan on attending and bringing as many people from your organization as possible.
Walter J. Tabachnick, Ph.D.
Florida Medical Entomology Laboratory
Department of Entomology and Nematology
University of Florida – IFAS
Vero Beach, Florida
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