COMMITTEE ON NATURAL RESOURCES AND CONSERVATION
416 Senate Office Building
Tallahassee, Florida 32304
SENATOR GUY SPICOLA, CHAIRMAN
SENATOR RICHARD R. RENICK, VICE CHAIRMAN
JOHNSTON, J. LANE. THOMAS, AI t i
February 4, 1976
, mo, I
TO: Members, Florida Senate
Members, Florida House of Representatives
FROM: Senator Guy i ola, Chairman
Natural Retwes and Conservation Committee
RE: Water Management Referendum, March 9, 1976
I have attached a "Fact Sheet" we have prepared on the
forthcoming tax referendum relating to the funding of
water management districts.
Water is fast becoming one of the critical problems of
large portions of the state. Those areas which are not
facing water problems today can rest assured that, as
the state's population continues to grow, they will in
It is for this reason, then, that adequate and proper
funding of the five water management districts is impera-
tive. It is only with proper funding that the state will
be able to plan now to forestall problems in the future.
I solicit your active support of the proposed Constitu-
tional Amendment and hope the attached "Fact Sheet"
will be of help to you as you are asked to discuss this
issue with your constituents.
DEMPSEY 1. BARRON
President Pro Tempore
JOHN D. MELTON
Sergeant at Arms
. il I I
WATER MANAGEMENT FUNDING "FACT SHEET"
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
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."
Three important points must be remembered in relation to the amendment:
1. Passage does not mean automatic imposition of a one-mill tax
for water management. The Water Resources Act limits taxes for the
water management districts to no more than 0.3 mill. A higher tax must
have legislative approval.
2. For residents of Northwest Florida, the wording on the ballot
is misleading. 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 on December 31, 1976.
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 the SWFWMD was
established including some 15 counties in the-west central part of the
state. Both districts have authority to levy taxes to support their
activities -- up to 1 mill for the FCD and 1.3 mills, overall, for
SWFWMD, including its basins.
I L I ,
"Fact She-t" Q V
In 1972 the Florida Legislature passed the very comprehensive
Water Resources Act, which divided the. state into -five water management
districts. '. The Legislature subsequently .rearbanged the boundaries of
the two older districts and created a sixth, interim, district until
such time as all tax and other financing measures were completed.' The
sixth district then would merge into- one or more of the other districts.
This was to have occurred in 1975.
Court rulings established, however, that major boundary changes
would effectively repeal the existing taxing authority of the FCD and
SWFWMD who, together, collect some $29 million in taxes annually. As
a result.: the, Legislature delayed the boundary changes until-December,
1976 and called for a statewide referendum on a Constitutional Amend-
ment 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 ulti-
mately limited, water resources.
The two older districts (FCD and SWFWMD) have been capable of
dealing with vital water management programs because of their pre-existing
taxing authority. If the Water Resources Act is to be properly imple-
mented, it is necessary for the new districts to have the same capa-
The newer districts Tst. Johns River, Suwannee River and North-
west Florida Water Management Districts) have been supported over the
past two years solely .by appropriation from the State General Revenue
Fund -- $500,000 each for the fir- t year and $400,000 each for the
second- (ucirent) year. In effect,, the entire Florida public has bedn
supporting, the- operations of these new districts-
While the FCD andSWFWMD also have received State Gene-ral Revenue
assistance; during these two interim years, the public within the bound-
aries of these districts has been paying what amounts to double Eaxation
for water management -- the property taxes supporting water management
in their own areas.and the sales and other taxes whick make up the
State General Revehue Fund used to support the activities in the other
districts. (Sixty-five percent of the State's population lives in the
FCD-SWFWMD area, paying about 70 percent of the sales tax and the
majority of the other taxes in the state.)
IF THE REFERENDUM FAILS
The three new distriCts will continue to lack taxing power.
Alternate funding programs will have to be developed. Most likely of
these is an attempt to continue the present program of funding from the
State General Revenue Fund. South Florida residents would continue to
carry an inequitable burden of water management taxes -- a burden which
would increase over the years. Initial estimates indicate a 1976-77
requirement of between $4- and $6-million for the three districts.
Required boundary changes would have to be deferred once again --
otherwise the SWFWMD and the FCD would lose their present taking auth-
ority, and the state would have to pick up an additional $25- to $30-
State assumption of funding responsibilities for water management
will result in the assertion of state authority over water management
as opposed to local control. The Whter Resources.Act provides for
delegation of permitting and regulatory activities to the water manage-
ment districts which.are led by.local residents. This provision 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, or supplement, 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
In any case, funds would be limited. Water management programs --
"Fact Shppt" ,.
eqpeciagy in the newer districts -- would be sever.ey .Itaile d.
..The fragmented "teWporary" sixth district may-have to be retained
since it could not .e added either to:the FCD or the !A@ WMD withoutM,
affecting their existing taxing powers.- It too wuild require financial
State assumption of funding responsibilities -- whether for the
three new districts, or for all five if the boundary changes are allowed
to go through -- will mean that critical water management problems.must
compete wJt_ a. A qthper st4ewajf@ pxobh .a f.or. .Bite4lg o i4a4J J-eag e ........
Fund dollars, incjyding7~,.million fpr maintenance of existing works
in .SWFWMD and FCD .:
IF THE REFERENDUM PASSES
,Control of water management programs and water resources develop-
ment will re ain 'et the 19oc lpyl,1-- and not in Tall4hasee q. :
Water resources problemss apd programs, wi.l o9. have _o coWete for
finde with other critical state program --. edcatto#Rr;orrectiooe.
health care, etc. --ji bncem~psive amounts of General Revenue Funds
will not be diverted to support water management actiyities,
Those personq,whp 9,t~ .p Rbegefit most from the pogramq, of water
management, districts wi4l bearthe costs of thei,.benef its .
-South Florida taxpayers no longer will be -sUpportin Northb, ori4a
programs -- in additionn to thgigawn tax7supported programs..,
The boundary changes which will divide the state into five, essen-
gially self-supBOtFng-and ydrolqgica .y -sou d,,Vater Management .pis-
tricts cap take .plage.
Because of the statutory limitatio onO taxjpg authority, each ,
water ,maagqent district would be _required to seek legislative approval
for pillage levies of more than 0.3 mills. .RegMests for ad.itpnl ..
village wi ensae detailed legiplatiyve-srVtiny of wat@r management
district operations and budgets.