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Collier County Taxpayers Should Benefit from $30 Million Escrow Account

In 2014, Collier County was ranked at the top of a Legislature needs-based study for the construction of a new State Veterans’ Nursing Home, however, the funding was ultimately awarded to St. Lucie County after the evaluation process. After the acquisition of the Golden Gate Golf Course property in 2019, Collier County Commissioners met with the Florida Department of Veterans Affairs (FDVA) to discuss their progress in raising the 35% mandated state construction match. In October 2021, FDVA visited the property to assess whether it would be an ideal location, and in July 2022 they recommended Collier County to the Governor and State Cabinet as the next site for the State Veterans’ Nursing Home facility. 

Photo courtesy: Davidson Engineering

According to the proposed development plan released in January 2023, Collier County must provide the initial $30 million in funding for the construction of the State Veterans’ Nursing Home. This funding will be covered by the Infrastructure Sales Surtax also known as the “One-cent Sales Surtax” used to invest in local infrastructure projects. The project was deemed appropriate for funding as it conforms to the definition of the term ‘infrastructure’ as stated: 

“Any fixed capital expenditure or fixed capital outlay associated with the construction, reconstruction, or improvement of public facilities that have a life expectancy of 5 or more years, any related land acquisition, land improvement, design, and engineering costs, and all other professional and related costs required to bring the public facilities into service. For purposes of this sub-subparagraph, the term “public facilities” means facilities as defined in 163.3164(39), s. 163.3221(13), or s. 189.012 (5), and includes facilities that are necessary to carry out governmental purposes, including, but not limited to, fire stations, general governmental office buildings, and animal shelters, regardless of whether the facilities are owned by the local taxing authority or another governmental entity.” 

The State requires Collier County to put the $30 million in escrow, to prove that we have the financial resources to build the nursing home. The catch is that the State would charge Collier County taxpayers a fee for holding the escrow and it would keep the interest earned from the escrow account. While it is perfectly reasonable to require funds to be escrowed for such a large project, I believe that the escrow should be maintained by the Collier County Clerk’s office to avoid paying fees. In addition, considering that the funding will be coming from our taxpayers, it is only fair that our citizens benefit from the interests earned from this investment.