June 8, 2007

At its June 7 meeting, the Southwest Florida Water Management District’s Alafia River Basin Board adopted a proposed fiscal year 2008 (FY2008) millage rate of 0.240 mill, which is the same as the current fiscal year.

Further, in the event that a tax reduction is mandated by the Legislature during its special session later this month, the Basin Board has authorized the Executive Director to recalculate its millage rate to reflect the change in revenue prescribed by the Legislature.

The proposed budget for FY2008 is $7,015,260 which is a decrease of $1,362,301 from the adopted FY2007 budget. The main reason for this budget decrease is due to a reduction in state funding and balances available from previous years. FY2008 will run from Oct. 1, 2007, through Sept. 30, 2008.

The Alafia River Basin Board area covers the southern portion of Hillsborough County and the southwestern portion of Polk County. For the owner of a $125,000 home with a $25,000 homestead exemption, the FY2008 Basin Board tax would be $24, or about $2 per month.

The Alafia River Basin Board’s proposed FY2008 budget includes funding for Cooperative Funding projects. These projects are proposed by local governments, and are usually funded equally by the Basin Board and the local cooperator. One of the cooperative funding projects, the Hillgrove and Stearns Stormwater Retrofit Project, will reduce flooding near Stearns Creek and Lithia-Pinecrest Road and improve water quality entering the Alafia River.

The first phase of the project will be to complete a hydrologic analysis that will determine the current drainage patterns of the area. The analysis will enable the project designers to determine the proper size culverts to use and how to best route the stormwater to prevent flooding.

Phase two of the project involves modifying an abandoned fish farm to provide additional stormwater storage and water quality treatment. Stormwater from the watershed will be routed through the pond, which will be planted with native plants to provide stormwater treatment, before it flows into Stearns Creek, which is a tributary to the Alafia River.

The cost of the project is expected to be approximately $2.9 million. Much of the funding comes from Hillsborough County and will be used for land acquisition and construction costs. The project design and portions of the construction costs will be reimbursed through the District’s Alafia River Basin Board, a grant from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and the State’s Water Protection and Sustainability Program Trust Fund.

The project is expected to be completed by June 2011.

The Basin Board’s proposed budget also includes $2.16 million for Basin Initiatives, which are projects that the board feels are of a high priority to its basin. The projects are typically initiated by and solely funded by the basin board.

The Medard Reservoir Structure Rehabilitation project is a Basin Initiative included in the proposed budget. The Medard Dam and Reservoir is the only major operable structure and the largest single asset in the Alafia River Basin. The reservoir is an important environmental resource providing habitat to a variety of flora and fauna. The reservoir also provides flood control, groundwater recharge and recreation benefits.

Following a cost-benefit analysis completed in February 2005, the Basin Board learned that deterioration is occurring throughout the system with the most notable impacts taking place at or below the water line. The board approved the repair or replacement of the existing rock rip rap and appropriate bedding materials. Rip rap is rock material used to prevent erosion.

The total cost of the repairs is projected to be $2.4 million to be budgeted over several fiscal years. The District budgeted $300,000 in FY2006 and FY2007 toward the long-term rehabilitation goals. An additional $1,291,212 is included in the proposed FY2008 budget.

The District has eight regional Basin Boards that provide guidance for local programs that are specific to the watershed basins they protect. The District’s ninth basin, the Green Swamp, is administered by the Governing Board. Basin Boards work with local governments and other entities on water resource projects that have an impact in local communities. Basin Boards often provide partial funding for these projects in partnership with a local government or cooperator.

The Basin Board’s proposed budget also includes $1.56 million for the Water Supply and Resource Development program, which provides matching funds for the development of additional new sustainable water supplies.

Basin Board members are unpaid citizen volunteers appointed by the Governor and confirmed by the Senate. They serve three-year staggered terms. Each of the Basin Boards includes a minimum of one person from each county within the basin, and there must be at least three members on each board. Each Basin Board has at least one of the 11 members of the District’s Governing Board that serves as the Board’s chair ex officio.

The District’s Governing Board will adopt proposed millage rates for the District’s General Fund and the eight Basin Boards at a special budget meeting July 12 at the TECO Center at Nature’s Classroom in Thonotosassa. These millage rates will be used by county property appraisers when mailing out Truth In Millage (TRIM) notices to residents. The Basin Boards will meet again in August to adopt their final millage rates and budgets.

Two statutorily required public TRIM hearings on the District’s total budget will be held in September. The first will be Sept. 11 at 5:01 p.m. at the District’s Tampa Service Office.

The Governor’s office will review and approve the budgets of all five water management districts before the second and final public hearing.

The District’s second and final TRIM hearing will be Sept. 25 at 5:01 p.m. at the District’s Brooksville headquarters. At the conclusion of the hearing, the Governing Board will formally adopt the final millage rates and budgets. The public is welcome to attend any Governing Board or Basin Board meeting to provide comment on the proposed budgets.

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