Water Management District’s New Budget Maintains Millage Rate, Balances Budget
The St. Johns River Water Management District's Governing Board voted yesterday to maintain its tax rate while also approving a balanced tentative budget that holds steady on the District's core missions.
The Board unanimously approved a tentative $284.48 million budget with a 0.4158 millage rate for the 2009-2010 fiscal year that begins Oct. 1. Two public hearings will be held prior to final budget adoption in September.
The tentative budget would be funded with about $123 million from property taxes, with the remainder coming from state, federal or other sources, and from carryover from the current fiscal year. The tentative budget represents an $86 million - 23 percent - reduction from the current fiscal year's budget. Property tax revenue would drop by $13.6 million - a 10 percent reduction.
"In this challenging economy, the Board felt it was critical to keep our taxes low but also to make certain that we continue to fulfill our missions of environmental restoration and ensuring sustainable water supplies," said Governing Board Chairwoman Susan N. Hughes of Ponte Vedra.
Under a 0.4158 millage rate - 41.58 cents for every $1,000 of assessed property value - the owner of a $200,000 house with a $50,000 homestead exemption would pay $62.37 per year in property taxes to the District.
Because the District is holding the line on its tax rate and because of a recent drop in property assessments, many existing property owners will likely see a decrease in the amount they pay in taxes to the District.
Among highlights of the tentative budget is a strengthening of the agency's commitment to water conservation and delay in new funding allocations for construction of river water withdrawal projects until completion of environmental protection studies on the St. Johns and Ocklawaha rivers.
Other than water conservation, most major District programs would see a reduction in funds from the current year. Budget highlights include:
· The Lower St. Johns River Basin program's budget is proposed to be $43 million, which is about $14 million less than the current year. The program would have no new District funding for reuse projects and wastewater treatment plant upgrades and receive no new state funding for basin initiatives. However, nearly $43 million from the current budget is to be carried over for long-term cooperative funding projects. Funding would continue for the St. Johns River Water Supply Impact Study.
· The Middle St. Johns River Basin program would see a reduction of 29.5 percent in its budget next year due to reduced funding from all revenue sources. No new cooperative funding efforts are planned. The tentative budget is $8.217 million.
· The Upper St. Johns River Basin program budget would be reduced by 20.5 percent due to the completion of surface water restoration projects in the basin. The tentative budget is $2.436 million.
· The Upper Ocklawaha River Basin's tentative budget is $2.112 million,
which is about 51.5 percent less than the current year, due to completion of several major restoration projects and no new capital projects.
· The Lake Apopka Basin program's tentative budget is $9.112 million, which is 33.3 percent less than the current budget, due to no new state or federal revenues to support the North Shore Restoration Area project. The project will proceed with District funding and mitigation funding. The District also plans to commit an additional $10 million to $12 million over the next four years to complete the Lake Levy project in the restoration area.
· The Indian River Lagoon program budget would increase 1.2 percent to $25.2 million for two capital improvement projects, the C-1 rediversion and the Fellsmere Water Management Area projects.
· The Stormwater Cost-Share Program would be reduced by 37.8 percent, which also coincides with a current reduction in local government partner funds for capital stormwater projects. With no new funding expected and less availability of partner funds, the cooperative funding program would carry over funds from the current year to complete long-term projects.
Public hearings on the proposed budget will be held at 5:05 p.m. on Sept. 8 and Sept. 22. Final budget adoption will occur at the Sept. 22 meeting.