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For water management
, TTo extend the concept of effective
water management throughout the,
state, and ultimately to protect Florida's
fresh water resources, voters should,
approve a constitutional amendment on
the ballot March 9.
S. The amendment is direct and simple..
SIt merely corrects a mistake made by the
1972 Legislature. But because water and
how to manage it are complex problems,
S the amendment has given rise to much
misinformation and confusion.
BEFORE 1972, Florida had two
water management districts. The
Southwest Florida Water Management'
District covered 15 counties in the
central region, including Pinellas. The
Central and Southern District regulated
water in South Florida. When both had
been created by the Legislature, in 1949
and 1961, they were given authority to
i In 1968, Florida adopted a new
Constitution. It continued the taxing
!authority of existing special tax
,districts, such as the two water
management districts, but required
voter approval for any future taxing
S In 1972, the Legislature passed the
important Water Resources Act, for the
first time establishing statewide water
planning and management. It formed
five water management districts, the two
existing ones and three new districts in
North Florida. Then the Legislature
made a mistake. Following the sound
idea that the water districts should
follow hydrologic divisions rather than
Political boundaries, the Legislature
changed the boundaries'of the existing
water districts to conform better with
hydrologic formations. In a -iwsuit T n
1975, a Circuit Court said such boundary
changes were unconstitutional without a
referendum in the areas shifted.
THE AMENDMENT to be voted
on March.9 is the Legislature's way of
correcting that mistake. It allows four of
the water districts to levy up to 1 mill.
The fifth district in the Panhandle can
tax up to 0.05 mill.
For taxpayers in Pinellas and other .
counties in the Southwest district, the
amendment will lower the authorized
millage from the present 1.3 mills to 1
(The most groundless objection to
the amendment came from John T.
Allen Jr., an attorney for the Pinellas
County Commission. He makes the
ridiculous claim that the amendment
could increase authorized taxes. That's
nonsense. The amendment adds to the
section of the Constitution where school,
city and county taxes are limited to 10
mills a provision saying that taxes shall
not be levied "for water management
purposes" in excess of 1 mill.) .
For taxpayers in the two existing dis-
tricts the amendment also corrects a tax
inequity. The three new water districts
are financed by state appropriations of
$400,000 each. That means that taxpay-
ers in South Florida are paying local tax-
es for water management in their regions
while part of their state taxes is paying
for water management in North Florida.
SOME supporters of the amerid-
ment in rural-areas are confusing the
issue with fear tactics. They are saying
that the amendment will stop a takeover
of water management by Tallahassee.
Some Pinellas legislators and county
commissioners have reacted to that false
appeal, instead of to the facts; Since
many people in Pinellas are dissatisfied
with the district's strict regulation of wa-
ter for people and inattention to over-
pumping by the phosphate mines, they
favor a state water management authori-
ty. They feel unrepresented on .and
discriminated against by the district
These are valid complaints, but they
cannot be corrected by defeating the
The present Legislature will not cre-
ate a statewide water authority if the
amendment fails. Instead, it will merely
return to the old boundaries for the pres-
ent districts and allow them to maintain
their present taxing authority. Taxpay-
-er-i South Florida willkeepon paying
for water management in North Florida.
THE BETTER course by far is for
the voters to adopt the amendment.
Then the 1972 Water Resources Act can
be implemented fully. Boards in the new
districts will be able to levy taxes for
their own costs. Comprehensive land
and water planning can move forward.
The 1976 Legislature can turn its atten-
tion to solving other problems, such as
fair representation for urban citizens on
the district boards and striking a bal-
ance between the people's water needs
and those of the phosphate mines and
For these reasons, The Times strong-
ly recommends that its readers vote for !
the constitutional amendment on taxes
for water management on March 9.
"The policy of our paper is very simple merely to tell the truth."
,- Paul Poynter, publisher, 1912-1950
FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 27. 1976
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