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July 27, 2007

At its July 26 meeting, the Southwest Florida Water Management District’s Northwest Hillsborough Basin Board adopted a fiscal year 2008 (FY2008) millage rate of 0.2421 mill, which is .0259 less than the current fiscal year. This reduction is in accordance with the tax reduction mandated by the Florida Legislature.

The FY2008 millage rate has been set equal to 97 percent of the rolled-back rate in compliance with House Bill 1B, the tax reform legislation signed into law by Gov. Charlie Crist on June 21. The Basin Board has adopted its millage before July 31 so the Governing Board can set proposed millage rates for the District and the Basins in compliance with House Bill 1B.

The budget for FY2008 is $10,841,322 which is an increase of $1.5 million from the adopted FY2007 budget. The main reason for this increase is an increased balance available from prior years and additional 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 $24.21, or about $2.02 per month.

The Basin Board’s 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 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

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

The District’s budget also includes $159,322 for projects in the District’s Surface Water Improvement and Management (SWIM) Program. The SWIM Program was established by the Florida Legislature in 1987 and requires the state’s 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 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 budgeted $54,270 for the project in FY2008. The District has also 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 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 local cooperator. The Northwest Hillsborough Basin Board area includes the northwest portion of Hillsborough County.

The Basin Board’s 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 13 members of the District’s Governing Board who serves as the Board’s
chair ex officio.

The District’s Governing Board will adopt the proposed millage rate for the District’s General Fund at its July 31 meeting.

In September, the Governing Board will adopt millage rates for the District’s General Fund and the eight Basin Boards after two statutorily required public Truth in Millage (TRIM) hearings have been held. 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 budgets.

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