ST. JOHNS RIVER WATER MANAGEMENT DISTRICT
ROUTE 2 BOX 695 VED
PALATKA, FLORIDA 32077 P
CLMM a*4-3-naaea I ? (. t
OEC 4 1975
MEMO TO: Concerned Citizens By ....._ ----"liS 'TTIMENT
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.
Prior to this Act, there were two agencies involved in water resource
management in the state, the Central and Southern Florida Flood Control T
District, 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-fundiag 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 J() mill."
At 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 are complex, and the time is short.
In addition to the complexities of this particular issue, many voters
today question the effectiveness of government, and find the benefits
of their tax dollars to be nebulous, at best.
.-Page two .
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
made. TWe,4eistricts have total responsibility for the management of
both ground and surface waters, and through a sound program of planning
and management, supported by adequate research to document the resource,
the benefits that will accrue to every sector are both significant and
The natural resources.fof the State of Florida have been impacted to such
an extent by population growth that local control and management 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 Districtand 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 Southwest, 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 ofk the St. Johns River
and its largest tri"utary, the Oklawaha. Thip transfer, however, did
not take place.
A court ruling established that this,transfer of .territories would, in
effect,' reconstitute the old districts and would subsequently result
in the loss of their ad valorem tax authority. This meant that the State
2 would lose3 approximately 35 mil in Al"- jars, and would have to find some
other source of funding for these districts.
Obviously, the Legislature could not allow this to happen. In the 1975"
Legislative Sessipn, 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 tyo old districts, az are -paying ad valorem taxes.-.
More significantly, if the referendum fails, they wili continue to do so.
In other words, a "no" vote would not mean no more taxes." Paradoxically,
a "yes" vote, could, mean reduced faxes to.anyone living in the counties,
to be transferred to the St. John District:
This is due to, the f(ct that the Flood Control District has very large
operational expenses due o 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
works to be maintained, with the exception of those located in the areas
to 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 $25,000
home based on a .375 village would pay $9.38 a year to the Flood Control
District. This same homeowner, if he were in the area to be transferred
to the St. Johns District, would pay $2.28 a year in taxes. This is
based on a millage of .091 to meet the 1976-77 budget request of 1.6
What does all of this really mean if the referendum fails? It means
that the Flood Control District and Southwest will continue to levy
their ad valorem taxes. It means the three new districts will have
to stand in line for rapidly-depleting general revenue funds. It
will mean additional taxes in some other form. It could, conceivably,
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,
rather than regional with the-resultant loss of citizen input.; :ft 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 March
J nine Auth