| Material Information
||Water boards' fight, still unresolved, has homeowners paying double tax.
||Nohlgren, Stephen. "Water boards' fight, still unresolved, has homeowners paying double tax." St. Petersburg Times. Aug. 22, 1985. 1p.
||Nohlgren, Stephen ( Author )
||Aug. 22, 1985
||North America -- United States of America -- Florida
||Box 4, Folder 2 ( SF BASIN BOARD CONCEPT ), Item 75
||Digitized by the Legal Technology Institute in the Levin College of Law at the University of Florida.
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Water boards' fight, still unresolved,'
has homeowners paying double tax
By STEPHEN NOHLGREN
St. Petersburg Times Staff Writer
The agency that decides when we how to manage limited water "We are moving to change that. Agri-
can water our lawns collected more supplies needed for agriculture, in- culture and rural interests see that if
property taxes last year than it really dustry and growing urban areas. they cannot control and dominate
needed. And this year may be no During a recent drought, for ex- the governing board, they want to
different. ample, Swiftmud conserved water by continue to dominate the basin
Last year's overcharge was no making Suncoast residents water boards."
backbreaker an average of $3.50 on their lawns in the middle of the night. Booth ruled that Swiftmud's gov-
a house assessed at $75,000. But with Since Swiftmud is spending more earning board couldn't unilaterally re-
homeowners from Punta Gorda to and more of its money on regionwide duce the basin boards' tax rates. But
Crystal River paying a little extra, projects, the governing board decid- the governing board didn't want to
the agency collected $7-million more ed last year to change how its taxes give in. It appealed Booth's decision
than it needed, are collected. Swiftmud's governors and went ahead and doubled its own
This money went to the South- doubled their own tax rate and, to rates.
west Florida Water Management compensate, slashed taxes going to
District, an agency that regulates wa- the basin boards. AS A result, both the governing
ter use in 16 counties along the Sun- IT WAS largely a bookkeei board and the basin board collected
coastIT WAS l y a ping taxes for the same work about
coast. change. Responsibilities didn't shift. $7-million worth.
THE WATER district, common- Overall, taxes stayed the same. But The money was placed in an es-
ly known as Swiftmud, is feuding the switch didn't sit well with some crow account and invested in Trea-
with some of its subdistricts over the basin boards, three rural counties sury bills sort of like saving it for a
right to collect taxes. Until the mat- and Florida Citrus Mutual, a power- rainy day. At the time, Swiftmud's
ter is settled, a judge in Hernando ful growers' association. They joined executive director Gary Kuhl said
County has allowed both sides to together and sued in Judge Booth's the extra $7-million would be used to
collect the money, so taxpayers are court. lower the next round of taxes once
getting soaked twice. One fear was the influence that I the suit was settled.
Swiftmud Chairman Bruce A. urban areas wield over Swiftmud's That was a year ago.
Samson called the ruling by Circuit governing board. Pinellas and Hills- I, Now, this year's taxes are about to
Court Judge John W. Booth "uncon- borough counties each are guaran- be established, and nothing has
scionable." teed two of nine seats on the board, hanged. The lawsuit remains unset-
That leaves only five seats for Swift-
"I think it is outrageous for tax- s ss ted According to tentative budgets,
payers in Pinellas or Hillsborough mudother4countes Swiftmud's governing board and
payers in Pinellas or Hillsboroughof the bard is some basin boards again are planning
county to be required to put up mon- .e some basin boards again are planning
county to be requireo put up mon- deadly to the little guy sitting out in to collect taxes for the same work.
Wilkes Booth," Samson said. basin board member from Land
Samson, who is running for mayor O'Lak$-million.
of' Tampa, later conceded that d C n mso lso If Suncoast residents get taxed
Booth's ruling is only one cause for Swiftmud Chairman Samson also another $7-million extra, Swiftmud
the double taxation. Swiftmud's gov- sees the taxing dispute as a rural-ur- will have almost enough tax money
earning board also has a hand in it. "Rural and agriculture special in- sitting in escrow to carry on business
WHEN THE Legislature creat- terests dominated the governing yea
ed Swiftmud in 1961, flood control board for 20 years," Samson said. TWO THINGS could change
was its primary work. The district that. A hearing is scheduled Aug. 29
was constructed from eight drainage before Judge Booth. He could stop
basins located around rivers such as the double taxation. And the people
the Peace, Hillsborough, Manatee who run Swiftmud could change
and Withlacoochee. things on their own.
Overseeing each drainage area is a Budgets for both the governing
"basin board," residents who recom- board and the basin boards will be
mend projects for their particular discussed Sept. 4 at a public hearing
area. Both the basin boards and in Brooksville. The hearing starts at
Swiftmud's governing board are ap- 5 p.m. at 2379 Broad St.
pointed by the governor, and both By Sept. 18, the budgets must be
have the authority to levy taxes. The approved and the tax rates set.
district board taxes for regionwide Spokesmen on both sides of the
projects, while the basin boards tax fight say they would like to stop this
for projects within their jurisdictions. double taxation by compromising.
Over the years, Swiftmud's work But at this point, neither side says
has shifted from flood control to a it,: prepared just towaick down.
more pressing regionwide problem: