June 11, 2007

At its June 7 meeting, the Southwest Florida Water Management Districtís Northwest Hillsborough Basin Board adopted a proposed fiscal year 2008 (FY2008) millage rate of 0.268 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, with the concurrence of the Basin Board chair ex officio, to recalculate its millage rate to reflect the change in revenue prescribed by the Legislature.

The proposed budget for FY2008 is $10,323,591 which is an increase of $1,035,420 from the adopted FY2007 budget. The main reason for this increase is an estimated increase in property tax revenue due to growth in property values, an increased balance available from prior years and higher interest earnings. FY2008 will run from Oct. 1, 2007, through Sept. 30, 2008.

For the owner of a $125,000 home with a $25,000 homestead exemption, the FY2008 Basin Board tax would be $26, or about $2.23 per month.

The Basin Boardís proposed budget also includes $3.89 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.

One of the Basin Initiative projects in the tentative budget is the Rocky Creek Lake
Enhancement project. This multi-year and multi-phased project is aimed at diverting excess water during wet periods from Lake Pretty to other northwest Hillsborough lakes that have been impacted by localized groundwater pumping. Rocky Creek flows through Lake Pretty into Lake Armistead and then toward Tampa Bay. The lakes that excess water would be diverted to are Horse Lake, Lake Raleigh and Lake Rogers.

The multi-year funded project is estimated to cost $2 million. Funding will be divided between Tampa Bay Water and the District. The Districtís Northwest Hillsborough Basin Board is tentatively contributing $287,749 in FY2008.

The Districtís budget also includes $159,322 for projects in the Districtís Surface Water Improvement and Management (SWIM) Program. The SWIM program was established by the Florida Legislature in 1987 and requires the stateís five water management districts to maintain a priority list of water bodies of regional or statewide significance. The districts develop plans and programs to improve these water bodies.

The Florida Department of Transportation North Dale Mabry Highway Stormwater Retrofit/Wetland Restoration project is a SWIM project included in the proposed budget that will improve water quality and restore wetlands habitat in the Carrollwood area of Hillsborough County.

The project will restore nearly 11 acres of FDOT-owned property along Waters Avenue, near Sweetwater Creek in Hillsborough County. Nuisance and invasive species have taken over much of the land. An existing ditch system and a large culvert discharge water from the site into Channel H, a tributary to Sweetwater Creek. This system has significantly diverted water away from the wetland for 20 years.

The goals of the project are to remove nuisance, invasive vegetation, restore historic water levels to the wetland area, and provide water quality treatment for stormwater from a highly urbanized 80-acre watershed. Additional benefits include flood plain creation and restoration of natural systems.

This multi-year project has received funding from the District and the FDOT since FY2006, and is expected to cost approximately $900,000. The Basin Board has tentatively budgeted $54,270 for the project in FY2008. The District has also tentatively budgeted $54,269 in SWIM funds.

The District has eight regional Basin Boards that provide guidance for local
programs that are specific to the watershed basins they protect. The Districtís 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 local cooperator. The Northwest Hillsborough Basin Board area includes the northwest portion of Hillsborough County.

The Basin Boardís proposed budget also includes $2.48 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 Districtís Governing Board who serves as the Boardís chair ex officio.

The Districtís Governing Board will adopt proposed millage rates for the Districtís General Fund and the eight Basin Boards at a special budget meeting July 12 at the TECO Center at Natureís 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 Districtís total budget will be held in September. The first will be Sept. 11 at 5:01 p.m. at the Districtís Tampa Service Office.

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

The Districtís second and final TRIM hearing will be Sept. 25 at 5:01 p.m. at the Districtís 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 meetings to provide comment on the proposed budgets.

 
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