S Iauthwest FllaOida
Water Manageonment Distriot
T. P. O. BOX 457 BROOKSVILLE, FLORIDA 33512
DERRILL McATEER Chairman. Broksille THOMAS VAN DER VEER. Secaery. Yankeetown RONALD E LAMBERT. Waucdia
3J. R. GRAW, Vicm Chairrmn. Ocala S C. BEXLEY. JR.. Land OLakes ROBERT MARTINEZ. Tampa
XJO E HILL, Treaurr. Labar M. BROOKS JOHNS. Laklad
Domald R. Feaur. Eecufive Diecor
November 20, 1975
Mr. James K. Lewis
Senate Committee on Natural
Resources and Conservation
414 Senate Office Building
Tallahassee, Florida 32304
We appreciate the opportunity to review the "Fact Sheet" you've
put together regarding the March referendum to amend the qonsti-
tution. The copy you sent us is enclosed with a few minor
suggestions you might want to consider.
Very truly yours,
DONALD R. FEASTER, P. E.
.cc: Board of Governors (with enclosure)
DRO -- For Review Purposes Qj
On March 9, 1976, the 'Florida voter will be asked to approve an
amendment to the Florida Constitution authorizing an ad valorem tax to
finance the management and development of the State's vital water resources.
In addition to the political issues which must be decided during the
Presidential Primary, the following proposed amendment will appear:
ARTICLE VII, SECTION 9
"Proposing an amendment to the State Constitution authorizing
and limiting local taxes for water management purposes to not
more than one (1) mill."
Several important points must be remembered in relation to the amendment.
1l Passage does not mean automatic imposition of a one-mill tax.
Any tax must first be approved by the Legislature for each district.
2. For residents of Northwest Florida, the wording on the ballot
is miR0plaing. SJR 1061, the legislation proposing the amendment,
limits the tax for Northwest Florida (from Leon County through Escambia
County) to 0.05 mill -- that is, five.one-hundredths of a mill.
3. Failure of the amendment will not affect the pre-existing taxing
power of either the. Central and Southern Florida Flood Control District
(FCD) or the Southwest Florida Water Management District (SWFWMD),
assuming there are no boundary changes. However, passage will reduce
the total amount of tax authorized for the Southwest Florida Water
Management District and its basins from a total of 1.3 mills to the
new limit of 1 mill.
Florida has been in the water management business for years --
dating from 1949 when the FCD was established covering all or part of
18 counties in Southeastern Florida, and 1961 when SWFWMD was estab-
lished including some 15 counties in the west central part of the state.
Both districts were given authority to levy taxes to support their
In 1972, the Legislature passed the powerful and very comprehen-
sive Water Resources Act which divided the state into five water
management districts.' e Act Arearranged the boutries of the two
existing districts and created a pixth, interim, district until such
time as all tax and other financing measures were completed when it
would then merge into one or more of the other districts. This was to
have occurred in 1975.
Court rulings established, however, that boundary changes of the
magnitude required by the Water Resources Act would be so significant
as, to effectively repeal the existing taxing authority of the FCD and,
the SWFWMD. As a result, the Legislature delayed the boundary change:
until December, 1976 and called for a statewide referendum on a Consti-
tutional Amendment authorizing all districts to levy taxes to administer
the Water Resources Act. The referendum has been set for March 9, 1976,
the date of the Florida Presidential Primary.
Proper water management no longer can be considered an academic
problem. Florida's rapidly growing population together with the fact
that the population is clustering in crowded coastal locations -- is
placing severe demands upon the State's still-abundant, but ultimately
limited, water resources.
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The two older districts (FCD and SWFWMD) have/ f9ew 1'--*-rc,* p.- .
hfrse maf#js*rmn4r aiWms A
b/Ar because of their pre-existing taxing authority, 4~e.ever-, if the
Water Resources Act is to bejimplemented, it/A- necessary for the new
districts to have the same authority.
The newer districts (St. Johns River, Suwannee River and Northwest
Florida Water Management Districts) have been supported over the past
two years by appropriations from the State General Revenue Fund --
$500,000 each for the first year and $400,000 each for the second (current)
year. In effect, the entire Florida public has been supporting the
operations of these new districts.
The public living within -he boundaries of the FCD and SWFWMD have
been paying what amounts to double taxation for water management -- the
property tax supporting water management in their own areas, and the
sales and other taxes which make up.the. State General Revenue Fund used
to support the activities of the other districts. (Sixty-five percent
of the State's. population lives in the FCD-SWFWMD area. They pay about
70 percent of the sales tax and the majoprity of the other taxes in the
It is the intent of the Water Resources Act 1hat water.managemert
programs be paid for only by those who directly benefit from the pro-
IP THE REFERENDUM FAILS
The three new districts will continue to lack taxing power. Alter-
nate funding programs will have to be developed. Most likely of these
is an attempt to continue the present program of funding from the General
Revenue Fund. South Florida residents, then, would continue to pay both
for their own and for other water management programs.
Required boundary changes would have to be deferred once again -
otherwise the pre-existing districts will lose their present taxing author-
ity, and the state would have to pick up an additional $30-million-a-year
tab. State assumption of funding responsibilities for water management
will result in.an assertion of state authority over water management.
The Water Resources Act provides for delegation of stringent permitting
and regulatory activities to the water management districts, a provision
which is unlikely to be fully implemented if the state -- through the
Department of Environmental Regulation in Tallahassee -- is forced to
carry the financial burden of the water management programs.
As an alternative to taxation or to funding the programs through
the State General Revenue Fund, a system of water use fees might be
required. Staggered fees, based upon the amount of water used, could
be assessed against all persons who withdraw water from ground or sur-
face waters. This would be a difficult and expensive program to admin-
In any case, funds would be limited. Water management programs --
especially in the newer districts -- would be severely curtailed.
The fragmented "temporary" sixth district would have to be retained
since it could not be added to either the FCD or SWFWMD without affecting
their existing taxing powers. It, too, would require financial support.
State assumption of funding responsibilities -- whether for the
three new districts, or for all five because the boundary changes were
allowed to go through -- will mean that. critical water management problems
must compete with other statewide problems for limited General Revenue
IF THE REFERENDUM PASSES
Control of water management programs and water resources develop-
ment will remain at the local level -- and not in Tallahassee.
Water Resources problems and programs will not have to compete for~
funds with other critical state programs education, corrections,
health care, etc. -- since massive amounts of General Revenue Funds wi l
not be diverted to support water management activities.
Those persons who stand to benefit from the programs of water
management districts will pay for the projects.
South Florida taxpayers no longer will be paying for North Florida
programs -- in addition to their own tax-supported programs.
The boundary changes which will divide the state into five hydro-:
logically sound water management -districts can take place.
Each water management district, including the two older districts
(the FCD and SWFWMD), would request authority from the Legislature to
levy a tax sufficient to cover its operating expenses up to the 1 mi,3
limitation, or the 0.05 mill limit in Northwest Florida. (It should be
noted that it is unlikely that the full authorized amount of taxes will
be requested in those areas in which 1 mill is allowed. The FCD, which
has authority to levy up to one mill under present law, is. levying only
0.375 mill; slightly over one-third of a mill, And, the FCD's taxes'
have been dropping slightly in recent years.' The SWFWMD, which has,
authority to levy 1.3 mills under current law, is levying less than
1 mill throughout its district and its basins.)
The Legislature would consider each request on an individual basis.