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Council's 2017 budget tops €23 million

foto president consellerJaume Ferrer was joined today by Bartomeu Escandell in unveiling the Formentera Council's 2017 budget. At an 11.00am gathering in the administration's plenary hall, the president and tax office councillor shared that the annual budget reached 23.8 million euros, up 6.91% from 2016's €22,275,000 figure.

Economic backdrop
The Council's 2017 financial forecast comes in the context of exceedingly trying —and increasingly unpredictable— economic conditions globally. Next year, barring unforeseen changes, experts predict a shrinking of the Spanish and Eurozone GDPs. Eivissa and Formentera, nevertheless, are at the head of economic growth in the Balearics, a trend unchanged in recent years.

Revenues and spending
New in this year's list of expenditures is a line item for a traffic inspection crew. Additional spending goes to expanding Formentera's lifeguard and rescue service, fire brigade, school of music, childcare services, cleaning crews and administrative staff.

The island currently has zero debt, although financing is envisioned to take on a loan tied to Formentera's development consortium (CFd) through BMN. Revenue growth is projected on the back of increasingly efficient tax checks.

Focal points of local investment include improvement projects in residential and tourist urban zones, green and sustainable transport solutions, upgrades of out-of-use local heritage sites (a joint venture with the Formentera Council of Entities) and public service improvements. A line item of €2.15m is reserved for improvements in es Pujols and another €100k will go to preservation efforts at Estany des Peix. La Mola's lighthouse will also receive the same €100k sum for use in cultural endeavours. An additional line item earmarks €325k for budgetary investments through the Council of Entities.

Govern to spend €13 million on Formentera in 2017

foto presentacio pressupostosCatalina Cladera, minister of the tax office in Palma, together with the Govern balear's director general of budgets and finances, Joan Carrió, presented today the Balearic Islands' 2017 budget for Formentera. Also on hand for the gathering were Formentera Council (CiF) president Jaume Ferrer, economy councillor Bartomeu Escandell and the rest of the local councillors comprising the island's governing team.

According to Cladera, the draft law underpinning the region's general 2017 budget for Formentera sets out €13.1 million, or an 8.9% increase on the funding received by the CiF in 2016. Meanwhile, financing from the Govern and a consortium of public sector agencies (referred to as Sector Públic Instrumental) will grow 1.5% percent.

Of the total figure, €6.1m will be paid out in current transfers as per the regional law on funding for the island councils (€5.9m of which is an advance on the 2017 package and €0.2m is payment of an advance from 2015). The figure is up €0.5m, or 8.9%, from the amount received in 2016.

Capital investment on Formentera, both from the ministries of the regional government in Palma and public sector agencies, has climbed 1.5% to €5.6m. The lion's share of the upswing will be in water treatment and in education.

Councillor Escandell, of the tax office, hailed the €500,000 year-on-year budget ascension, a change he said would be reflected in priority actions at the Sant Ferran primary school (which has a line item of €1.5m) and environmental projects like water treatment plant maintenance and operationalising the new irrigation reservoir.

Escandell also alluded to plans by Silvia Tur, a representative in the Balearic parliament, to present amendments requesting Formentera's budgetary allocation be increased. Of the different amendments, the most noteworthy relates to a deal struck between the CiF and the Govern and entails more money to cover costs of rubbish transfer. It is hoped that the €550,000 initially set aside by the Palma administration can be raised so as to cover 100% of waster transfer costs —roughly €1m— by the end of the current legislative session.

At plenary, council members urge scuppering Balearic Sea petroleum explorations

Foto ple juny 2016Earlier today the Formentera Council convened its June plenary session. Members unanimously passed a proposal to urge the regional environment ministry in Palma to disqualify Spectrum's overdue environmental impact study on oil and gas exploration in the Balearic Sea. CiF environment councillor Daisee Aguilera explained that, if allowed to go ahead, the activity could take place “a mere 20 kilometres from the Pitiüsa Islands and cover an area of 14,000 square metres”. The Council has requested the project be cancelled. Explaining the Council's stance, Aguilera cited the fact the completed study came due April 20 and the Govern Balear Ministry of Environment's extension on the deadline came a month and a half late.

Plenary members also voted unanimously to pass a joint proposal encouraging “respect and visibility for sexual and gender diversity”. Social welfare councillor Vanessa Parellada thanked all the political groups for backing the proposal, which she described as a way to “show support for the law guaranteeing legal protection for lesbian, gay, transexual, bisexual and intersex individuals, wipe out sex- and gender-based fears and assert the Council's commitment to LGTBI groups.” On that note, it was announced that on June 28, the Council would raise a rainbow pride flag in celebration of World Pride Day.

Excepting a “no” vote from Partido Popular, the day's plenary session brought unanimous approval for a bid to change the official form of address for council members from honorable to senyor (sir) or senyora (madam), a measure aimed at decreasing the divide between elected officials and locals. Unanimous go-ahead was also given to a proposal to draft an official declaration celebrating June 14, national Spanish sign language day.

The vice-president and councillor of the president's office, the tax office and the office of rural affairs, Bartomeu Escandell, addressed plenary members today. Speaking about work in the president's office, Escandell highlighted recent work with the CiF chair to organise and coordinate government and administration operations. “One of the Council's top priorities,” he declared, “is to ensure unity and cohesion in a group of such varied political backgrounds”.

By contrast, Escandell identified the tax office as the “CiF division with the fewest changes under foot”. He claimed a responsible management was behind the success of the Council's budget stabilising efforts. According to the councillor, the yearly budget stands at roughly 22 million euros and the Council is able to earmark money for re-investment, something he called “fundamental for a place like Formentera that lives off of tourism”.

Ca ses Castellones
Councillor Escandell shared his concern over the “economic impact of a judge's ruling on the Ca ses Castellones case requiring the CiF to pay 1.5m euros”. Aside from financial considerations, the councillor had a broader critique to make, for society in general and local politicians in particular. He called the present case “a clear example of the pitfalls of rash decision making” and recalled the chain of events between 2003 and 2005 that saw the PP —with backing from GUIF and PREF— sidestep construction restrictions at the site and sign a building permit just one week before the project faced review. The upshot, he explained, is that the Council has been asked to pick up what started out as a 5m euro tab. Susana Labrador, spokesperson for Gent per Formentera, called on the PP to “assume political responsibility for the repercussions of the ruling”.

Rural affairs
Councillor Escandell also took time to speak about the Farmland Reserve project. He described the goal as going beyond “winning back the image of an actively farmed countryside” and extending to “enhancing crop yield”. To the second point, he said locally-grown products were necessary for providing cheap options for livestock feed and “turning over fine-dining calibre products that we can be proud of”.

On agriculture, Escandell highlighted the importance of a recent announcement from the Govern Balear's chair Mateu Ginard that plans for the local irrigation pond have been set for next summer.

In terms of fishing, the councillor called “stepping up monitoring operations along our coasts” his personal crusade.

Escandell stated his own pledge: “To make our beaches, coastline and island safe.” To do so, Escandell referred to the Council's 37 person-strong team which works with other forces behind the exclusive task of ensuring order and safety.

In terms of firefighting, Escandell reported on the addition of one professional fireman to the island's brigade, which is made up of four professionals and two volunteers. He also hailed “the speed and professionalism of our firefighters' response to a string of vehicle arson incidents this winter”. The councillor said those fires are still under investigation.

Council affirms it has submitted accounts for third-party audits over last five years

The Formentera Council's tax office reported today that in the last five years the administration has provided its general accounts to the regional court of audits – la Sindicatura de Comptes – and, it asserts, has done so since taking office. «The story published in different media sources today is false», declared department head Bartomeu Escandell, who attributes the erroneous information to «a potential point of confusion, stemming from the fact that in recent years the Council has submitted its accounts after the court's established deadline of 15 October». «Never have we neglected to submit our accounts entirely», he said, and assured «the accusation has no basis in fact».

Partnership with court of audits

In the words of Councillor Escandell, «the Council has an extremely good relationship with the court of audits». He referred to a partnership in place since December whereby the CiF submits its financial information for auditing by the Sindicatura. The accord grants the Sindicatura access to the CiF's accounting system and, as Escandell explained, they have the ability to audit both past fiscal years and the budgetary information of the different departments of the Council. At the time the accord was signed, he said, the Council committed to «full cooperation to facilitate any and all accounting checks». The partnership between the Sindicatura de Comptes and the Formentera Council is indefinite. 

Council plenary brings approval for 2016 budget

Votacio pressupost 2016 premsaThis morning saw the island’s councillors gather to celebrate the October plenary session of the Formentera Council. Of particular significance on the agenda was a proposal to grant initial approval to the Council’s general 2016 budgets, which, at 22,275,000 euros, are 1.43 percentage points higher than the accounts in 2015.    Bartomeu Escandell, tax office councillor, was on hand to speak to any questions on the subject. He pointed out – underscoring the focus on «quality public services» – the patent continuity between the budgets of years past and the coming year.

Environment and transport
Escandell enumerated some of the different projects envisioned for 2016, paying special attention to the green ones: rezoning and additional environmental protections at l’Estany des Peix, an initiative to regulate anchorage across the island’s coastline. Investment in sustainable transport was a recurring theme,  as the councillor made clear

Sustainable transport, the councillor made clear, is an important part of 2016 investments, as evidenced by the forthcoming draft of a directive on transport and plans to rehabilitate and repurpose local heritage sites.

Local participation
The councillor spoke of the move to give the Consell d’Entitats authority to decide which projects will receive 10% of the CiF investment budget (250,000€). The tax office councillor reminded plenary participants of the drop (from 0.85% to 0.80%) in the local real estate tax on urban buildings. He noted, however, that overall collections are expected to increase, thanks to improved inspection techniques.

Rejection by opposition
For a variety of reasons, the new budget did not receive support from the different opposition parties. Partido Popular spokesman José Manuel Alcaraz declared his party’s intent to submit objections in an attempt to lower tax rates. Socialist councillor Rafael Ramírez explained his party’s objection as «a question of principle», indicating the PSOE’s desire to be included in the consensus process. Compromís amb Formentera spokeswoman Cristina Costa, while declaring «agreement on the general terms of the budget», assured her party would have given priority to different projects. In the end, the budget was passed thanks to “yes” votes from the ruling party and despite the “no” of the opposition.

Seeking funds to purchase Espalmador
Attendants of the plenary voted unanimously to support a joint motion – first launched by the PP – to seek out funding in conjunction with the Palma and Madrid governments to buy the island of s’Espalmador and guarantee its environmental upkeep. Labelling it a subject of general interest, Councillor Escandell stressed the importance of winning the support of all the island’s political parties. He also said he would petition to see that «more controls are put in place to ensure a real, effective protection of the island take place». The three other groups gave their support to this idea.

There were three final measures that saw councillors join together for unanimous approval. First among these was a motion to post the agendas of the CiF president and councillors on the Formentera Council website. The second dealt with the drafting of a collaborative accord to improve the island’s firefighting service. In the third case, the go-ahead was given to commissioning an undersea archeological map of Formentera and surrounding areas. In patrimony councillor Susana Labrador’s words, «locating and describing our underwater archeological heritage sites is the first step toward effectively protecting them».  

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