No tax c6ld hurt
area water projects
By DALE WILSON 177>A
Times Staff Writer
Residents living within the 15-county area of the Southwest
Florida Water Management District (SWFWMD) may lose
about $12 million worth of water management programs if
they fail to vote to tax themselves, a district spokesman said.
That would mean completion of local projects like the
Tampa Bypass Canal might be delayed considerably if the
tax question is not solved, said SWFWMD administrator E.D.
"If there is no funding base to buy canal rights-of-way.
work on the bypass canal could slow down," Vergara said.
Because of the present tax situation. Hillsborough residents
have already paid several million dollars for purchases of
The referendum, scheduled to take place on Mar. 9, 1976.
the date of the state presidential primary, will decide once
and for all if voters will pay up to one mill to SWFWMD for
Flood control projects, he said.
Vergara made his prediction known as the district geared
up for a massive campaign to convince voters to approve the
referendum and allow themselves to be taxed.
If the referendum fails, SWFWMD may be forced to com-
pete with state agencies for money, he said. and the district
could lose funds for the projects.
Other projects include aerial mapping of the 15-county
area. various flood control projects such as the ones located
on Lake Thonotosassa. and a park in nearby Pinellas County.
The issue is as complicated as a gordian knot, Vergara
In 1972 the legislature ordered several boundary changes,
to take place on July 1. 1975. within the district. SWFWMD
lost two river basins the Oklawaha River basin in Lake
.and Marion Counties, and the Wacasassa River basin in Levy
and Gilchrist Counties to other water management dis-
In addition SWFWMD would pick up the two-county "Man-
asota" basin, in Manatee and Sarasota Counties.
But the problem over the tax money arises because of a
constitutional amendment, made in 1968, that says special
taxing districts SWFWMD is considered one can tax
only when a referendum is held. and voters agree to be sub-
ject to a millage tax.
Since SWFWMD was created in 1961. officials said the dis-
trict was "grandfathered in." and not subject to the amend-
But last April Fifth Judicial Circuit Court Judge E.C.
Aulls ruled the boundary changes so modified the district that
it was no longer a special taxing district, and the vote must
be held. Vergara said.
Currently, the district levies one mill. Vergara said, and
annually collects about $12 million from the tai. If the refer-
endum falls. SWFWMD would lose that amount, and the
state would have to foot the bill for flood control projects.
"If the taxpayer pays directly to the water management
district, he can choose where his money will go for flood con-
trol purposes. But if the state funds SWFWMD, their request
wil be competing for all other state projects, and the state
would endup controlling flood programs." Vergara said.
So MES FRIDAY, OCTOBER 10. 1975
Water board wants
to keep taxing power
Psco Tihnm Bureau
To no one's great surprise, the board of governors of the
Southwest Florida Water Management District Wednes-
day passed a resolution in favor of the district being al-
lowed to maintain its ad valorem taxing powers.
A Hernando County court has ruled that if the district
boundaries mandated by the Water Resources Act of 1972
is implemented, it would revise the district's configuration
so that it would no longer be the special taxing district it
was, and that the district would therefore be subject to loss
of its ad valorem taxing authority.
Pointing out that "vitally important water management
problems," would "continue to worsen unabated," and that
there is no apparent alternative source of financing for the
$30-million necessary to operate the district, the board set
Forth its position as being "strongly in favor," of a constitu-
. tional amendment that would, if passed by the voters at a
Special referendum March 9, allow the Legislature to autho-
r.nze ad valorem tax levies for water management purposes.
_ I _~ __