S; Water-management district cuts staff
( K' By SUSAN DeFORD raise more of its monty through property taxes
SDmocnt e staf wrmr rather than going to lawmakers for money, Mc-
Though its work keeps growing, the North- Cartney said.
west Florida Water Management District will During the past session, Sen. Pat Neal, D-
have to cut its staff next year because legisla- Bradenton, argued the district should receive
tors can't agree on the district's funding, just $500,000 from the Legislature. That
The district, covering 16 county amount, contained in the Senate's proposed
sacola to Monticello, will have to t 12 ps state budget, was increased to $731,000 on the
tions from its staff of 68 in 1983- ,S il last day of the Legislature's special session in
McCartney, the district's executive director. June, McCartney said.
A public hearing on the district's proposed The district looks to the Legislature for
$7.1-million budget is scheduled for today at money because its taxing power is severely lim-
5:05 p.m. at the district's headquarters. Its of- ited by a constitutional cap, he'said.
fices are located on U.S. 90, three miles west of The district can tax property at a rate of
the Interstate 10 interchange in Gadsden Coun- only .05 mills. A mill equals $1 in taxes for
ty. every $1,000 of property value.
McCartney said less money from the Legis- The state's four other water-management
lature forced the staff cut In the current fiscal districts have the power to levy up to 1 mill in
year, which ends Sept 30, the district received property taxes, though none uses its full taxing
$810,000 from the Legislature. Next year's ap- authority. These districts levy taxes at a rate of
propriation is $731,000. .15 to .3 mills.
The Legislature, he said, "is substantially In the upcoming fiscal year, the Northwest
increasing our responsibilities and cutting our Florida Water Management District expects to
district's budget. It's becoming very difficult to receive $619,000 from property taxes. That fig-
operate." ure is 6 percent more than last year, due to the
Some legislators believe thedistrict should growth of the tax roll.
But the heftier tax base hasn't kept
up with the district's escalating re-
sponsibilities, McCartney said.
During the past few years, the dis-
trict has had to take on new state pro-
grams regulating water use, well
drilling and capping, and the purchase
of floodplains along rivers for conser-
For example, McCartney said, the
district will receive $32 million from
the state over the next 10 years to buy
land under Florida's Save Our Rivers
program. In fact, nearly $5 million of
the district's $7.1-million proposed
budget is set aside for buying river
"But we have not received a penny
to determine what lands needed to be
purchased, or how to manage those
lands," McCartney said.
Last session, legislation designed to
raise the district's taxing limit was
introduced, but failed to pass the
House or Senate. Many of Northwest
Florida's legislators, notably Sen.
Dempsey Barron, D-Panama City, op-
posed attempts to raise the cap.
McCartney said district officials
will try again next year to have legis-
lation passed raising the taxing cap.
Even if the Legislature approves the
measure, it still must pass a statewide
referendum, since raising the cap re-
quires a revision of the state Constitu-
"We don't need the big bucks, we
don't need the full one mill," McCart-
ney said. "But we do need an adequate
source of revenues to operate on.
"We're going to work on it."