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PALATKA. "LOtIDA 390r7' Melbourne, Florlda 32935
MEMO TO: Concerned Citizens
SUBJECT: Constitutional Amendment, Article VII, Section 9
In 1972, the Florida Legislature passed one of the most enlightened
pieces of environmental legislation in the United States, the 1972 Water
Resources Act, Chapter 373, F.S. This Act provided for a regional approach
to water management through the establishment of five water management
districts whose boundaries were predicated on hydrologically.controll-
able units or river basin boundaries.
Prj" to this Act, there were two agencies involved in water resource
md tment in the state, the Central and Soufthbrn Florida Flood Control
Disrict, created in 1949, and the,Southwest Florida Water Management
District, created in 1961. The enAbling legislation for. both of these
agencies provided for their funding through the levy of.ad valorem
taxes, with a cap set at one (1) mill for the Flood Control District,
and one and three-tenths (1.3) for Southwest.
The three new districts, however, have no authority for this ad valorem
levy and are dependent upon general revenue funding for operational ex-
penses. This is due to the fact that the 1968 State Constitution does
not provide the Legislature with the power to grant this authority to
the new districts.- Therefore, the need for adequate funding for these
districts necessitates 'an amendment to the Constitution which would pro-
vide this authority. *
Appearing on the ballot in the March 9 Primary will be Constitutional
Amendment, 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."
SAt a time when budget cuts,; belt-tightening", and unemployment are the
theme of.the day, the passage of this referendum is dependent upon an
informed citizenry. The issues ard lbomple~ahId the time is short.
In -d4ition to the complexities of this partLcular issue, many voters
tol question the effectiveness of .overeit,. and find the benefits .
of eir tax dollars to be nebulous; at bdebt.
At the risk of appearing biased, we feel that the water management dis-
tricts are one of the best investments for the tax dollar that can be
mwido. The districts have total responsibility for the management of
both ground and surface waters, and through a sound program of planning
and manaccment, supported by adequate research to document the resource,
the benefits that will accrue to every sector are both significant and
Tile natural resources of the State of Florida have been impacted to such
.an extent by population growth that local control and .anagerent is no -
longer a viable approach, for water and its related land use problems
respect no political boundaries. This regional approach to water man-
agement is one of the great strengths of the Water Resources Act.
Under the provisions of the Act, the original boundaries of the Flood
Control District'and Southwest were to be changed to coincide with the
natural basin boundaries.', The Upper St. Johns Basin, presently within
the jurisdiction of the Flood Control District, and the Oklawaha Basin,
presently in-Gouthwest, were to have been transferred to the St. Johns
District July 1, 1975. This meant that the St. Johns District, appro-
priately, would have control of the headwaters of the St. Johns River
and its largest-tributary, ,the Oklawaha. This transfer, however, did
not take place.- :,. .
A court ruling established that this transfer of territories.would, in
S effect, reconstitute the old districts and would subsequently result
*' in the loss of their ad valorem tax authority. This meant"that.the State
would lose approximately 35 million dollars, and would have to find some
other source of funding for these districts.
Obviously, the Legislature could not allow this to happen. In the.1925
Legislative Session, legislation was passed which delayed this transfer
until December 1976. This would allow time for a statewide referendum
for funding all five water management districts.
Sixty-six percent (66%) of the voting populous reside within the current
boundaries of the two old districts, and are paying ad valorem taxes.
More significantly, if the referendum fails, they will continue to do so.
In other words, a "no" vote would not mean "no more taxes." Paradoxically,
a "yes" vote could mean reduced taxes to anyone living in the counties
to be transferred to the St. Johns District.
This is due to the fact that the Flood Control District has very large
operational expenses due to the complexity of problems in their district
and an extensive network of water control works with related operation
and maintenance costs. They're currently levying at.the rate of .375
mills. The St. Johns District, on the other hand, has no structural
workstto be maintained, with the exception of those located in the areas
Sto be transferred and would, therefore, have.a significantly lower budget
need by comparison. The 1975-76 budget for the Flood Control District,
for example is over 21 million. A homeowner paying taxes on a $25,090
home based on a .375 village would pay $9.38 a year to the Flood Control
District. This name homeowner, if he were in the area to be trandforred
to the St, Johns District, would pay $2.20 a year in taxes. Thi's is
based on a millage of .091 to meet the 1976-77 budget request of 1.6:
W ihat does all of this really mean if the reforondum fails? It means
S that the Flood Control District and Sou-':h:..ct will continue to levy
their ad valorem taxes. It means the three new districts will have
to stand in line for rapicly-dopletInV onoral revenue funds. It'
will mean additional taxeu in some other form. It could, conceivably,
v'i'. mean the dilution or death of the Water Resources Act, for the State
could not allow the boundary changes to take place with the subsequent
loss of ad valorem funds; and dependence on state general'revenue fund;
ing by the three new districts could mean state-level water management, *
rdher than regional, with the resultant loss of citizen input. If. the
referendum fails, it means a tremendous step backward for the State of: .
What does it mean-if the referendum passes? We would appreciate the
opportunity to tell you what it can mean to you. Please contact me
if you have any questions, or if we could schedule a group discussion
or presentation on the issue.
Florida has'the opportunity to be a model for water management in the
United States today through the implementation of the Water Resources
Act. We believe in it, and we hope we'll have your support in the Manrch
Administrative Assistant. .
PLEASE PASS TO A PRIMIM
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