4 ST. PETERSBURG TIMES TUESDAY, JANUARi 13.1976
Amendment would limit, set
new water district taxes
By VIRGINIA ELUS Conner, Atty, Gen. Robert L. Shevin and several
St. Pftumar ThuM Sum WImrIr state senators and representatives endorsed the
TALLAHASSEE amendment, saying they will be part of a cam-
Wooing Southwest Florida Water Manage- n to get it passed.
meant District voter with promises of possible tax Williams said it only will be a matter of time
reductions, state officials launched a campaign until the rest of the state is confronted with simi-
Monday for a constitutional amendment that lar water-shortage problems as those facing the
would set property taxes for water-management Southwest district. "When you consider the water
districts. problems we've had in Southwest, particularly in
'The amendment, to be voted on March 9, au- Hilsborough, Pinellas and Pasco, it's not some-
thorises property taxes of up to $1 per $1000 of thing in the future, it's already here," said Wil-
taxable property (or 1 mill) for four of Florida's Hams.
five water-management districts. He said the planning division of his Adminis-
While the amendment would allow new taxes tration Department has been unable to authorize
in much of the state, it actually limits taxes in the a number of regional impact studies in the district
Southwest Florida Water Management District, "because there is simply no way at this point in
which includes Pinellas County. time to see developers providing adequate water."
THE DISTRICT now can tax up to 1.3 mills CONCEDING THAT the amendment does
for each $1,000 of taxable property but the new have one drawback, Williams urged voters not to
amendment would limit it to a flat 1 mill. The "throw out the baby with the bathwater simply
highest tax in the district is .84 mills. because it does not on the surface appear to be a
In a year of heightened opposition to new tax- fair and rightful plan."
s, the amendment's supporters are counting on The amendment would allow up to a 1 mill
heavily favorable voting in the two established property tax levy to support four of the districts
districts Southwest and the Central and South- but only a .05 mill levy for the Northwest district
ern Flood Control District to carry the amend- in the extreme northwest part of the state.
ment. The smaller levy for the Northwest district
(The two districts already are allowed to levy was included in the bill in the waning days of the
property taxes but the three new districts Su- last legislative session to gain support for the
wannee River, St. Johns River and Northwest amendment from Sen. President Dempsey J. Bar-
have no such authorization.) ron, D-Panama City, and Sen. W. E. Childers, D-
If the amendment fails, then the other three Pensacola.
districts probably would be supported by general In his dual role as Administration secretary,
state revenue provided for in part by taxpayers Williams said he would never recommend taxes
who already are supporting the two districts, from other districts be used to make up any defi-
explained Lt. Gov. James H. "Jim" Williams. cits in the northwest district.
"That's the inequitable situation we're in," he BUT AMENDMENT opponents, notably
said. Sen. Kenneth MacKay, D-Ocala, intend to em-
"I THINK the people in that area should be phasize that flaw.
aware that without passage of this amendment "I don't want to ever put myself in the position
there will be dual taxation among these people," that simply because the Sheriff of Nottingham
dded Rep. W. B "BI" FPulford, D-Orlando was in charge of the forest that's the way I'm
Williams, Agricultur Commaiioser Doyle going to obusinea," MacKay said.
Among state 1 7,, "7 p.
supporting the J
Lt. Gov. 'Jim' -
Williams, right. e ..
MacKay said he strongly supports the water
management' districts but he said the Legislature
was too hasty in drawing up an amendment be-
fore it had worked out some of the problems.
He said it had established no statewide policy
for operating the districts, meaning that each one
will have the option to tax across the board as is
done by the flood-control district or to tax by wa-
ter basins based on costs, as Southwest does.
EACH BASIN board in Southwest is al-
lowed to levy up to 1 mill and the district is al-
lowed to levy up to .3 mills district wide. The dis-
trict actually levies .15 mills and its total tax
levies range between the basin boards from .25
mills to .84 mills.
As long as there is no guarantee the Southwest
method of taxing will be followed, MacKay said,
some sections of the vast districts could end up
subsidizing others. Or, he added, one area could.
allow runaway growth knowing it could share the
Even supporters of the amendment are con-
ceding that they expect an uphill battle.
Conner's support, which is expected to blunt
some of the expected opposition from agriculture
sources, supporters say, has given the campaign
its biggest boost.
"Farmers probably know more about water
and its importance than any other segment of our
society," Conner explained. "... Profits and loss-
es in agribusiness can be determined by the abun-
dance or scarcity of water."
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