HOW CAN WE TRUST THEM WHEN THEY DO THIS?
September 24, 2016
What they don't tell us.
WE DESERVE ACCOUNTABILITY FROM THE SCHOOL DISTRICT
September 9, 2016
The taxpayers of Manatee County deserve accountability. Since the half-cent sales tax went into effect in 2003 the school district has collected $310M. It was also collecting impact fees until 2009 when it inexplicability suspended collection of impact fees retroactive to Jan. 1, 2009. Over the next 7+ years it refused to collect impact fees thus forfeiting $87M and saving the developers an equal amount. During that same period when it was refusing impact fee revenue, the School District was borrowing tens of millions of dollars. On April 18th it resumed impact fee collection but only at the 50% rate and is not scheduled to resume collection at the recommended rate until April, 2018.
Why? Taxpayers want to know why the School District refused to collect $87M in impact fees and who paid for infrastructure required by new development during that 7+ year period.
I was shocked when school impact fees were suspended and I spoke before the Board of Commissioners a number of times over that 7+ year period in an effort to get the suspension lifted. After one such "public comment" Commissioner Bustle said, "Just the other day the Superintendant told me he didn't need the money". At the time I was baffled by that remark but now it makes sense. They REALLY didn’t need the money because they has the sales tax revenue.
With revenue from property taxes, the sales tax, and bond revenue, the School District "didn't need" revenue from impact fees from the developers so the School Board refused to collect it giving the developers multi-million dollar windfalls every year for over 7 years.
Why didn't the School District honor "The Promise" that was made to coerce voters into approving the sales tax in the first place or why didn't they reduce property taxes if they didn't need the money? Clearly it was a pay-back to the developers for financing the campaigns of commissioners and school board members. And this pay-back continues with discounts in county and school impact fees during a time of record construction in Manatee County and in light of a serious need for more revenue to fund new schools required because of development. Money it would not need if it had collected impact fees over the past 7+ years.
Of course we care about the kids and education and we want great schools. But, we don’t want to pay the developer’s bills. We want them to pay their fair share. We will pay our properly taxes and the sales tax but we refuse to continue to subsidize the developers.
The taxpayers of Manatee County are madder than hell that the developers aren’t paying 100% of what they legally owe. Until developers pay 100% of the recommended impact fees, taxpayers are not likely to approve continuation of the school sales tax or the proposed county sales tax.
PRIMARY ELECTION RESULTS
September 7, 2016
In last week’s Primary Election two County Commissioners were elected. In District-1 Priscilla Whisenant Trace will replace Larry Bustle who is retiring. Vanessa Baugh was re-elected in District-5.
Runoff candidates were determined for School Board Districts 1 and 3. In the November 8th election Edward G. Viltz will run against Gina K. Messenger. District 3 will see Dave Watchdog Miner compete against Misty Servia.
Only 27% of registered voters voted in the Primary. That means that roughly three out of four who could have voted didn’t. We need to do better. Please vote on November 8th to make sure your voice is heard.
THIS IS OUR COUNTY - LET'S TAKE IT BACK - VOTE TODAY
August 30, 2016
TODAY two county commissioners and two school board members WILL BE ELECTED. We have a chance to decide who will represent us for the next four years. Please vote. We recommend:
District 1 - Corie Holmes
District 5 - Kathleen Grant
Dave Watchdog Miner
VOTE YES ON AMENDMENT 4
PLEASE VOTE TODAY - YOUR VOTE COUNTS
TOMORROW, AUGUST 30TH IS PRIMARY DAY
August 29, 2016
If you haven't voted yet, tomorrow is "do or die" day. Tomorrow two commissioners will be elected for a four year term. If you live in District-1 we recommend Corie Holmes. If you live in District-5 we recommend Kathleen Grant.
We all get to vote for 2 school board members. We recommend Linda Schaich and Dave Watchdog Miner. All four of these candidates support 100% collection of impact fees and and are not supported by any interest groups so will represent us not them.
Aug. 28, 2016
All you have to do is look at how much the developers have contributed to certain candidates to know WHO NOT TO VOTE FOR. It is disgusting to see how they are trying to buy votes. Click on the following link to see who is supported by the rich developers and who we recommend
(see * after names of recommended candidates) you vote for. Click the link below:
HOW MUCH MONEY HAS EACH CANDIDATE RAISED?
August 21, 2016
We have updated the list of "Total Donations" received by each candidate. Check it out to see who is probably supported by "interest groups". Be sure to look at page 2 also. CLICK HERE
RECOMMENDATINS FOR CANDIDATE ELECTION IN PRIMARY
August 19, 2016
We are making recommendations for your votes in the Primary Election which will be on Tuesday,August 30, 2016. Our selections are based on each candidate’s stand on the issues especially impact fees, the sales tax referendums, and perceived special-interest group influence. We need Every vote to help win back control of Manatee county from special-interest groups. Please vote. CLICK HERE or on the image to the left to see our recommendations..
100% IMPACT FEE COLLECTION IS ESSENTIAL
August 15, 2016
Candidates running for the School Board or the Board of County Commissioners must support 100% collection of impact fees to be considered for our votes. Most candidates completed the "Candidate Survey" form provided by Our Manatee and returned it for publication (CLICK HERE). Some candidates explicitly stated that impact fees should be collected at the 100% rate; others intimated that, some hedged, while one, Misty Servia, stated "generally about 95% of the recommended fee" would be her choice. Her justification is "protection from lawsuits". She further stated that "There is substantial case law on impact fees around the country." We have requested that documentation.
Giving the developers even a 5% discount on school impact fees would be very costly to the school district. The 100% school impact fee rate is $6,574 per home. 5% of that is $328.70. In the past year 2,394 permits for "New Residential" housing units have been issued. A 5% discount on each of those homes represents a total of $786,907.80. Over a 15 year period that would total almost $12M. That is quite a price to pay on the remote chance that the developers might challenge the calculations done by TischlerBise which has NEVER lost a lawsuit that questioned any of the over 900 impact fee studies they have done.
There were numerous hearings with TischlerBise representatives prior to the Board putting their stamp of approval on the new impact fee schedule. Developer representatives were there. They asked many questions which were thoroughly answered by TischlerBise. The developers were relentless but failed to uncover any issues with TishlerBises's methodology or calculations. The developers know that it would be fruitless to initiate a lawsuite and that is why they are trying to get candidates elected who they have been able to deceive.
We recommend that voters do not consider voting for any candidate who advocates giving the developers any discount on impact fees. We have been down that road before and won't be fooled again.
OUR MANATEE CANDIDATE SURVEY RESULTS
August 9, 2016
The results of the "Our Manatee" Candidate Survey are in and are now available on our website. We had a very good response from the candidates and thank them for their participation. Please do not use these surveys as your sole source of information. Remember that candidates want to win and may "slant" their responses to gain votes. Next week "Our Manatee" will make recommendations that may help undecided voters. The survey results may be found HERE.
VOTE TO MAKE MANATEE COUNTY MORE PROSPEROUS
August 2, 2016
Why has the Board of Commissioners and the School Board consistently given the developers huge impact fee discounts? Here are some of the excuses they have used:
- To reduce the cost to buyers of new homes.
- To increase the sale of new homes thus creating more jobs.
- Because the developers will sue us if we charge too much.
- To promote growth which will increase the tax base.
None of these are valid. There is no evidence that developers passed on to buyers any “savings” they received from reduced or suspended impact fees. And, even if the developers kept the “savings” the extra cost to buyers of the school impact fee is only $0.81 per day on a 30 year mortgage for a $250,000 house. That wouldn’t deter anyone from buying a $250K home.
There is no evidence that more homes have been built creating more jobs because impact fees have been reduced or suspended. People move here because of the warm climate and beaches not because the can save 81 cents per day.
Both the county and school impact fee studies were done by TischlerBise a reputable firm that has done over 900 impact fee studies and none have been successfully challenged. It is ridiculous to give the developers discounts that amount to millions of dollars on the very remote chance that they might sue and win.
It is true that more houses in the county increase the tax base but it is also true that the cost of services required for those new homes is more than the increase in the tax base. The result of all the growth is a net loss and our quality of life is declining, just look at the traffic, lack of repair of infrastructure including roads and public buildings as well lack of funding for improvements.
Now, here’s the kicker. A study, “Paying for Prosperity: Impact Fees and Job Growth”, done by the Brookings Institution, one of Washington's oldest and most reputable think tanks concludes, “…impact fees can directly fund vital infrastructure improvements, while increasing the supply of buildable land, improving predictability in the development process, and indirectly promoting local employment at the same time. Faced with the growing demand for investment and the public resistance to tax increases, localities in growing regions that institute impact fees may become more prosperous in the long run than communities in such regions that do not have them.”
The bottom line is that our present elected officials (with a couple of exceptions) are putting us more and more in debt every day by not charging the developers impact fees as recommended by the TischlerBise impact fee studies for which taxpayers paid $222,000.
What can you do? Vote ONLY for candidates who support 100% collection of impact fees in both the Priamary (August 30, 2016) where some races will be determined and the General Election (November 8, 2016). EVERYONE must do their part. Get out and vote.
THE BIG IMPACT FEE - SALES TAX SCAM
July 29, 2016
In 2002 the developers were instrumental in promoting passage of the half-cent school sales tax referendum. They weren't just being altruistic. They had a plan unknown to the public. They knew that the sales tax may only be used for "capital costs associated with the construction, reconstruction, or improvement of school facilities and campuses that have a useful life expectancy of five or more years, and any land acquisition, land improvement, design, and engineering costs associated with such facilities and campuses" (Section 212.055(6), F.S. ). Interestingly school impact fees cover most of the same costs. Coincidence? You be the judge.
Since school impact fees were not collected from the end of 2008 until April of this year ($87M loss) it doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out why "The Promise" wasn't kept. And, certainly the School District had capital costs that were required only because of new development; Costs that would normally be covered by school impact fee revenue. So it appears that our sales tax dollars have been used to subsidize the developers. That is wrong and disgusting.
The only way to stop this misappropriation of funds is to vote NO on continuation of the school half-cent sales tax. And the only way to prevent the County from doing the same thing is to vote NO on the county half-cent sales tax.
We also need to vote only for candidates who favor 100% collection of impact fees both county and school. Once we have elected candidates who will truly represent us we can revisit the sales taxes and consider if they are justified and if so, for how long. The school sales tax sunsets at the end of 2017 so there is plenty of time to reconsider either or both taxes but as long as impact fees are not being collected at the 100% rate there should be no sales surtaxes, none!
MAKE SURE YOU ARE REGISTERED TO VOTE
July 10, 2016
Most people think the election is in November but for some positions the August 30th Primary Election will determine the winner. In every election a certain number of voters go to the polls to vote only to discover that they aren't registered any more for various reasons. Check today to make sure you are registered to vote NEXT MONTH. You can check on-line. CLICK HERE Do it now. It only takes a few seconds.
ONLY DEVELOPERS BENEFIT WHEN IMPACT FEES ARE REDUCED
June 29, 2016
There are a lot of players when it comes to impact fees including developers, home buyers, builders, sub-contractors, and taxpayers. Until 2009 impact fees were always paid at the 100% rate for both county and school impact fees. Then in 2009 the developers convinced the county and the school board that a discount in impact fees would benefit the local economy. School impact fees were reduced to 0% and road impact fees were reduced to 50%. School impact fees remained suspended until April, 2016. In 2011 a new impact fee study was done and new county rates were set at 100% as recommended by that study. In 2015 new school impact fee and county impact fee studies were done. In April, 2016 school rates were set at the 50% level and county rates were set at 80% of the recommended rate. The full 100% rate is not expected to be restored for both school and county impact fees until April, 2018. The Graph below illustrates school and county impact fees per average 3-bedroom house and does not include commercial and other impact fees.
As you can see from the graph, impact fees have been collected at a discounted level since 2008. It is anticipated that collection at the full rate will resume in April, 2018. By then well over $200,000,000 will have been lost by the county and school system.
Clearly when developers don't have to pay impact fees or pay only discounted fees, their costs are reduced. You might think that they would reduce the prices of houses they sell in order to pass their savings on to buyers. There is no evidence that home prices were ever reduced. Developers price their houses at the "market price", the highest price they can get which in many cases is higher than before impact fees were reduced.
You might also think that discounted impact fees would allow developers to pay their builders and sub-contractors more thus providing them with more profit. Talk to any sub-contractor and they will tell you that the developers will pay as little as possible and often don't even meet those obligations for various reasons.
So, who pays for all the required infrastructure if the developers don't? One way or the other it is the taxpayers who bear the burden. It is usually hidden as "debt service". When large amounts of money are needed the county and school district sell bonds which pay interest to the buyers. The principal on the bond plus interest is paid back over a long period of time much as mortgage payments are except in this case tax dollars are used to make those payments. Recently county services have been cut, projects have been delayed, and maintenance has been cut back in order to make the "debt service". So, the taxpayers also lose.
When impact fees are collected at the full rate, the local economy is actually stimulated. Money does not have to be paid by the county to service the debt so that funding may be used for its intended purpose. In addition the impact fees that are collected are used to build the infrastructure that is required by new development. That creates more jobs that put more money into the pockets of employees who spend it thus stimulating the economy.
So, what happens to the money if developers don't have to pay impact fees. Well, they keep it. One local developer actually bragged that he was "earning" two million dollars more per year because he didn't have to pay impact fees.
WHY WON'T THE COUNTY TELL US WHY THEY DIDN'T
COLLECT TENS OF MILLIONS OF DOLLARS IN IMPACT FEES?
June 22, 2016
In July 2009 the Board of County Commissioners voted to "temporarily reduce Roads Impact Fees by fifty percent (50%)" for two years. (Ordinance 09-037) The rational for this decision was because of "a severe economic recession." It was reasoned that because of the economic slowdown less road construction would be required but they failed to take into consideration that impact fees are self correcting. When construction slows during an economic downturn, fewer building permits are issue resulting in less impact fee revenue and less road construction.
That resulted in an economic windfall for the developers who theoretically passed it on to home buyers in the form of lower home prices. Lower home prices would create more demand which would mean more construction and more jobs so the theory goes. The flaw in this plan was that developers will sell their houses at the highest possible price as determined by the market. There is absolutely no evidence that home prices were ever reduced even though impact fees were reduced by 50%.
Although the effective date was July 27, 2009 it was "retroactive" to January 1, 2009, for "any Impact-Generating Land Development for which a certificate of occupancy is issued on or after July 29, 2009". During the two year reduction in road impact fees a study was to be done so that new rates could be established in compliance with the State of Florida Impact Fee Act.
following the new impact fee study that was done by Henderson Young & Company the two year reduction in road impact fees was extended to September 30, 2011 and "Transportation Impact Fee" was incorporated into "Roads Impact Fee" thus also reducing Transportation Impact Fees by 50%.(Ordinance 11-20).
The impact fee study done by TischlerBise in 2015 established new rates but the BoCC decided to "phase them in" by giving developers a 20% discount the first year, 10% the second year, and the full amount staring with year three. Why? What is the reason for the phase-in and more importantly, who is going to pay for the infrastructure required by new development if the developers don't? One way or another we taxpayers will have to subsidize the developers. Remember that when you vote in November,
WHAT HAPPENED TO $310M THE SCHOOL DISTRICT
RECEIVED SO FAR FROM SALES TAX REVENUE?
June 5, 2016
In 2002 Manatee County voters approved a referendum that added a half-percent to our sales tax rate to provide revenue for the School District. Collection started on January 1, 2003. The accompanying graph shows the first fourteen fiscal years of receipts distributed from the State. Fiscal years run from July through June. FY02-03 is for the first six months of 2003 and FY15-16 is projected to the end of June based on the first eight months of revenue. The tax will sunset on December 31, 2017 if it isn't extended by voter approval.
The total amount of revenue projected to be collected by the end of FY15-16 is $309,855,533.00. The graph above illustrates the revenue received by the School District so far. Click on the graph to see the related data table and a larger graph. It is not clear how those funds have been spent but it appears that a substantial portion has been used to sell “certificates of participation” (COP’s) which use the tax revenue to pay back the bonds. In other words, those who hold the bonds receive the tax revenue plus significant interest in payments usually over ten or more years.
That means that the school district started spending the sales tax revenue before it had it and paid 5% (+ or -) compounded interest for the privilege. That essentially threw away tens of millions of dollars. Had the school district delayed a few years and accumulated a reserve before starting their capital projects it would have better used the sales tax revenue.
A citizen’s advisory committee had been set up to monitor expenditure of the sales tax revenue. The committee composed of prominent County citizens was eventually disbanded when members resigned in frustration at the lack of corporation from the school district. Questions went unanswered for months and many were never answered. As a result there has never been a full accounting of the sales tax revenue.
There has been some speculation that local investors may have purchased the COP’s because of the secure and generous nature of the investment. It would be in their interest to keep the school district in debt to insure continuation of new COP opportunities.
In 2009 the school board inexplicitly suspended the collection of school impact fees. That has resulted in the non-collection of over $87M over the next seven+ years and insured that the school district would need to issue more COP’s which it did.
If the school board expects voters to approve extension of the half-cent sales tax for another fifteen years it needs to insure that revenue from that tax will not be squandered as apparently has been the case since 2002.
At a minimum the school district must account for every cent of revenue it received from the school sales tax to date, all $310M of it. That means listing all bonds including COP’s (including repayment schedules) that were issued with sales tax backing, and who purchased them including the end investors. It also needs to identify all the projects that were funded by the proceeds from the bonds, the cost of each project, and all bids received for each project. In addition it needs to list all sales tax revenue expenditures that went directly (not funded by bond revenue) to fund capital expenditures.
Finally the School Board must explain exactly why it suspended collection of school impact fees for seven years, three months, and two weeks and why collection hasn't been resumed at the the 100% level. The school district should not expect voters to approve continuation of the half-percent sales tax if it does not answer all these questions and resume collection of school impact fees at the 100% rate.
WHY DID THE SCHOOL BOARD REFUSE
TO COLLECT SCHOOL IMPACT FEES?
May 13, 2016
The Manatee County School Board passed a resolution to suspended collection of school impact fees in August 2009 retroactive to January 1st of that year. The County Board of Commissioners agreed and passed an ordinance that suspended collection of school impact fees for two years. The suspension was repeatedly extended and continued for seven years, three months, and two weeks. The total amount of school funding refused by the School Board and the Board of County Commissioners is $87,319,905.21.
That figure was calculated using data from the Manatee County website Building and Permitting Search page and the school impact fee rate in effect at the time of suspension, $6,571.83. (Click on the small graph to left to see large graph and data table.)
The School Board, School District Administration, nor the Board of County Commissioners has ever justified refusing to collect over $87-million that is desperately needed to build new schools to relieve severe overcrowding resulting from 13,287 new homes permitted during that time.
On April 18 collection of school impact fees was resumed but with a 50% discount. In the first two weeks since resumption 175 permits have been issued costing the School District well over a half-million dollars. Why? Why isn’t the School District collecting 100% of the amount recommended by the TischlerBise School Impact Fee Study? No one will answer that question.
When school impact fees are not charged, the infrastructure required by new development must still be provided by the County. The money has to come from other School District revenue which diminishes the amount available for the actual education of our students. That is why some of our schools are failing and why our teachers are underpaid. One-third of our schools are rated “D” or “F” and our teachers are paid 20% less than teachers in our neighbor county, Sarasota. Our school drop-out rate is 20% and that only represents those who started high school.
Our county violent crime rate was up 12.3% in 2015 while nonviolent crime was up almost 10%. The murder rate was up 71.4% and 2016 is starting off even worse with three murders on January 1st and the trend is continuing. During the week ending on April 14th, there 226 crimes in Manatee County.
When schools are under funded and the drop-out rate is high there are more under-educated individuals in the community who can’t get jobs. The crime rate goes up. Costs for policing, court costs, and incarceration costs all go up and the human toll is tragic. We will have to pay the price one way or another. By keeping kids in school and by making sure they get the attention they deserve we can make a big difference but we can’t do that without adequate funding and we can’t do that if we refuse revenue from available sources including school impact fees.
We must elect School Board members and County Commissioners who are not influenced by powerful interest groups such the developers. We must take back our school system and our county. WE MUST NOT VOTE FOR ANYONE WHO RECEIVES HUGE FUNDING FROM THE DEVELOPERS.
We need elected officials who will represent us and act in the best interest of us and our kids. If we don’t do that we will have only ourselves to blame when our elected officials refuse to tell us why they won’t collect tens of millions of dollars for our schools.
Coming soon: Analysis of the County Impact Fee Discounts
SCHOOL DISTRICT BORROWS MILLIONS
WHILE SUBSIDIZING DEVELOPERS
May 7, 2016
On May 11, 2011 the Manatee County School District issued a Certificate of Participation (COP) in the amount of $39,850,000. A COP is a bond that is guaranteed by some revenue source probably the sales tax revenue in this case although that is not specifically stated. The interest on this $40M loan is $31M. That is money that is gone and can’t be used by our schools. At that same time school impact fees were not being collected, hadn't been collected for two years, and weren’t for another five years and are now only being collected at the 50% rate. The School District was actually refusing millions of dollars of revenue while paying exorbitant rates to borrow money. Click here to see the Debt Service Table for the COP.
This bond is a twenty year note that will pay back $71M on a $40M loan but the half-cent sales tax sunsets at the end of next year. That is a big problem. If the tax isn’t continued and the District defaults on payment, the District’s credit rating would end up in the cellar. That is one reason why the District is so hot to make a deal with the developers to promote continuation of the sales tax even though it will cost the School District $80M+ over a ten year period.
We have no idea what the bond revenue was used for. The School District must be transparent about ALL their finances, past and present. Voters aren’t going to support continuation of the sales tax if School District doesn’t comply. Voters absolutely won’t support extending the sales tax under the existing terms where sales tax revenue may be used to subsidize the developers. The conditions of any new sales tax must stipulate 100% collection (no credits accepted) of school impact fees as long as the tax is in effect.
If the School District goes into default it is likely the State will take over and there will be a thorough investigation. It is probable that wrongdoing by certain School District employees will be uncovered. That could lead to prosecutions, fines, and even prison. Maybe that would be the best thing that could happen to the School District and for our kids.
CLICK ON THE IMAGE BELOW TO SEE THE FULL DOCUMENT
April 30, 2013
Click above to see the full cocument.
THE BIG PROMISE THAT BECAME THE BIG LIE
April 26, 2016
In 2002 an organization known as the Coalition For Quality Schools released a document that listed all the things that “The Half-Penny Will Allow Us To Do”. Listed at the top of the first page were “Stop Using Portables As Permanent Classrooms”, “Renovate or Replace 42 Existing Schools”, and “Build 18 New Schools including Four New High Schools”. This document is commonly known as “The Promise” and may be seen here.
The Coalition For Quality Schools (registration number N02000001856) had offices at 6215 LORRAINE ROAD, BRADENTON, FL 34202 (Lakewood Ranch). The officers of this organization were WILLIAM ROBINSON CJR. (Registered Agent), REX E. JENSEN, ANTHONY J. CHIOFALO, and GENE WITT. These men were all developers or were associated with developers in some way. The purpose of their group was purportedly to improve our schools but their hidden agenda was to save the developers millions of dollars by helping them avoid paying school impact fees.
Their goal was to convince Manatee County voters to approve the half-cent sales tax referendum. “The Promise” was produced to convince the public that paying the half-cent tax would make our schools fantastic. What the public didn’t realize was that the referendum was written in such a way that the income from the tax could be used for capital expenditures necessitated by new development, the exact same thing that school impact fees are supposed to pay for.
It worked! The voters approved the referendum and the tax went into effect on January 1, 2003 and is set to sunset on December 31, 2017. Money started pouring in to the School District from both impact fees and the sales tax and some of the promises were fulfilled.
In 2009 when the housing market took a dive the developers went to the School Board and asked that the school impact fee be suspended. They argued that it would help them sell houses for less which would mean more sales and more jobs. That was one big lie but the School Board requested that collection of school impact fees be suspended for one year. The Board of County Commissioners agreed but made the suspension two years and made it retroactive to January 1, 2009. After repeated extensions of the suspension and failure for years of the School District to do a required impact fee study, collection of school impact fees were finally resumed on April 18, 2016 but only at the 50% rate. During that 7+ years of suspension the school district lost out on over $100M, $17M in the last year alone. During that time revenue from the sales tax was used to pay for infrastructure that should have been covered by impact fee. That saved the developers millions and millions of dollars at the expense of taxpayers.
The School District now needs six new school to accommodate all the new students from all the new residential development in the County. The sales tax and impact fee revenue has been squandered and sales tax will sunset next year. The developers have managed to keep impact fees they should have paid and tax dollars were used to pay for infrastructure those impact fees should have paid for. There isn’t enough money and the prospects for getting more are poor.
To make things even worse the School Board inexplicably resumed collection of school impact fees at the 50% level for the first year, 75% during the second year, and 100% thereafter BUT they didn’t stop there. They solicited the help of the developers to get a new sales tax referendum approved by the voters and if they are successful the impact fees will be continued at the 50% level indefinitely. As it stands NOW the developers will get a 50% discount on impact fees forever if a new sales tax referendum is approved by voters.
The School Board has now TOTALLY LOST THE CONCIDENCE OF THE PUBLIC. The school board needs to collect every cent it can to build the schools that are needed, renovate those that need it, pay our teachers what they deserve, make every school in the District an “A” rated school, and reduce our drop-out rate to zero. Some will say that isn’t realistic others will say we must try.
The School Board must:
- Remove the link between impact fees and the sales tax
- Start collecting 100% of the recommended school impact fees
- Explain what happened to every cent of the sales tax revenue
- Explain what happened to all bond and certificate of participation revenue
By doing the right thing the School Board may win back the confidence of the public but as long as the developers are not paying 100% of the recommended impact fee there can be no discussion about a half-cent school sales tax after 2017.
Please attend the School Board meeting today, April 26, 2016, at 5:45 to protest the Boards unwise decision to make this bad deal with the developers.
WHY SHOULD THEY CARE ABOUT THE KIDS?
March 24, 2016
During the School Board meeting when the Board was considering resumption of the collection of school impact fees Bob Gause suggested linking school impact fees and the half-cent school sales tax. The result was the following paragraph at the end of School Board Resolution 15-08:
“Notwithstanding the foregoing, should the voters of Manatee County approve a referendum providing for the extending a sales tax in favor of the School Board of Manatee County, the School Board recommends that the impact fee be levied at 50% of the Maximum Supportable School Impact Fee shown in Figure 1 of the Study.”
The corresponding paragraph of the Board of County Commissioners Ordinance 16-003 (page A-5) states:
“Notwithstanding the foregoing, if at any time after April 18, 2016, the electors of Manatee County shall approve a half-cent sales surtax to fund school construction, the impact fee shall, on and after the effective date of such a sales surtax, be set at fifty percent (50%) of the amount set forth in the above schedule (regardless of any increase pursuant to subparagraph (2) or (3) above) and shall remain at fifty percent (50%) thereafter.”
The influence of the developers on the School Board and the Board of County Commissioners can clearly be seen in these two paragraphs. What the School Board members and the commissioners are saying is that they don’t care in the least about the education of our children, not now, not forever. It is clear that the developers don’t want to pay any impact fees at all even if it means that our school system is not able to give every student a fair chance at a good life. They especially don’t care about our disadvantaged children who need special help under difficult situations. They don’t care about our teachers who have dedicated their lives to helping others even though they are rewarded less financially.
Clearly the members of the School Board and most of the Board of Commissioners are more interested in pleasing the developers than in doing what is right for those who voted them into office. And, the developers are the worst of all. They want more money and more power and they don’t care who they hurt along the way. They are all morally corrupt.
None of the incumbent School Board members or incumbent County Commissioners deserves to be reelected. If anyone in Manatee County votes for any of them they will be promoting unethical and amoral behavior and will be contributing to the continuation of a second rate school system, a school system that is failing, a school system that is allowing students to drop out thus dooming them to hard and possibly horrible lives..
LET YOUR VOICE BE HEARD
March 21, 2016
We need input from the residents of Manatee County. If you are reading this you probably agree with us that Manatee County is "broken" and needs to be fixed. Please comment on our Facebook page and suggest what needs to be "fixed" in order to make Manatee County a better place to live and work. If someone else has already made comments you agree with please "like" those comments so we can get some idea about how important those issues are.
VOTE FOR A BETTER MANATEE COUNTY
March 17, 2016
In 2009 both the Board of County Commissioners and the School Board justified suspending school impact fees and reducing other impact fees as much as 50%. They claimed that lower impact fees would allow developers to sell houses for less which would create jobs which would stimulate the economy and increase the tax base. They were wrong. There is no evidence that any houses were sold for less or that more jobs were created.
What we do know is that the developers reaped huge profits which they are now using to purchase more land for more developments and to finance the elections of candidates they totally control.
We also know that existing home prices in Manatee County were driven down because of the flood of new homes on the market. That resulted in home prices going “under water”; many well below the prices owners’ paid and often below what they still owed on their mortgages. Thousands of homes were forced into foreclosed and many families lost their life savings.
At the same time the School Board and the Board of County Commissioners repeatedly extended discounts on impact fees or suspended them completely. With the absence of that income, the School District and County had to use other revenue to build new infrastructure required by the developers as mandated by State law. They also froze pay increases for county employees including teachers and let many county employees go, just the opposite of what they promised. Many county departments are still under-staffed and teachers are underpaid. On average, Manatee County teachers earn $10,000 less per year than Sarasota teachers. Because of those cuts county services have been reduced, the county has taken on more debt, and our quality of life has diminished. Now our county administrator (who is appointed by the Board of Commissioners) wants to increase the sales tax a full percent which would negatively impact all of us but would hurt those who can least afford it most.
At the same time the School Board wants to extend the half cent school sales tax. Much of the revenue from that tax has been used to pay for new infrastructure required by new development which further subsidizes the developers. The School Board even made a deal with the developers whereby the developers would promote continuation of the tax (which is set to expire next year) in exchange for a 50% discount in school impact fees if the voters approve the half-cent sales tax. (See page A-5 of Ordinance 16-003)
The developers could spend millions of dollars to promote extension of the sales tax and still end up with hundreds of millions of dollars more in their pockets because they would only have to pay the school impact fee at the 50% rate for at least five years. What kind of people are they that they are willing to cheat the taxpayers of millions of dollars and deprive our children of a quality education? They may be financially wealthy but they are morally and ethically bankrupt. It is inconceivable that they continue to destroy our county while they steal our tax dollars and all with the help of the Board of Commissioners and the School Board.
In 2011 the BoCC approved Ordinance 11-12 which extended the suspension of school impact fees from two years to four years with an end-of-suspension date of July 27, 2013. The Ordinance stated in part:
“During the aforesaid four year period the County, in corporation with the School Board, shall conduct a study of the educational facilities impact fee, and at the end of the four year period shall make such modifications to section 2-29-85 as are necessary to assure that the rates established thereunder are based on the most recent and localized data in accordance with the requirements of Section 163.31801, Florida Statutes.”
This ordinance was unlawfully violated when neither the County nor the School District initiated the study that was required to be done before July 27, 2013 and by not restoring the collection of school impact fees as required by law. Individuals who disregarded Ordinance 11-12 in both the County and School District should be prosecuted for failure to initiate the study as prescribed by Ordinance 11-12.
It is true that new development does increase the tax base but the county also has to provide more services such as fire and police protection, emergency services, water and sewer services, education of more children, street maintenance and numerous other services. The county has no idea how much those services cost since they have not done a “cost of services” study since 1983. Research indicates that, on average, local governments collect only $1.00 for every $1.15 spent to provide those services. That means that the county is actually losing more money with each new house even though the tax base is increasing.
On August 30th we will have an opportunity to elect three new members to the School Board. We will likely be bombarded by all kinds of advertising trying to convince us to elect candidates who will continue the bad practices of the present and past School Boards. Many of those ads will be financed by the developers who do not have our student’s best interests in mind nor are they concerned about us, the taxpayers of Manatee County. We need to be careful not to be fooled by misleading statements. We must look at the facts and candidates' past performance and then decide who would best represent us and our children and we should vote accordingly.
The voting laws are designed to confuse us. For example, there will be three School Board seats decided in the August 30th election, one each for Districts 1, 3, and 5. Each voter in Manatee County will be able to vote for a candidate in each of the three districts even if they don’t live in any of those three districts. We at “Our Manatee” encourage you to vote for individuals who are not controlled by the developers. All three incumbents voted in favor of the sales tax/impact fee deal so other candidates should be considered.
For information on the other candidates you may check the “Supervisor of Elections” website or check back here to see what we have to say after we talk to each candidate.
DOES MANATEE COUNTY HAVE
GOOD GROWTH OR BAD GROWTH?
4 March 2016
A community knows it has good growth when it is a better place to live after the growth than before. The quality of life for residents is better. There are more permanent well-paying jobs. The schools have high ratings and low dropout rates. Traffic moves along with little or no congestion. Taxes are stable or lower. There is no urban sprawl. There are new community amenities such as parks, playgrounds, preserves, and bicycle pathways. The streets are clean, attractive, and well maintained. Residents may walk or ride bicycles safely to destinations near and far on connected bicycle/pedestrian pathways. The natural environment is beautiful and protected for future generations. Residents are proud of their community and respect their elected officials. Visitors want to live there.
Growth increases the tax-base; good growth has a positive impact on the economy because the growth in tax revenue is greater than the cost of services demanded by that growth. A compilation of 83 studies by the American Farmland Trust compared tax revenue from residential and commercial/industrial properties to the cost of community services for those properties. In other words, for every dollar of tax revenue increase, how much was spent to provide community services for each of those property types? The study found that for every $1.00 of increase in tax revenue from residential development, it costs a median of $1.15 to provide community services while a $1.00 increase in tax revenue from commercial/industrial development costs a median of $0.27 to provide community services. High value residential property produced a more favorable ratio.
So, how is Manatee County doing? Although we are quite certain we know, there is no way to know for sure without a Cost of Community Services Study (COCS). The last one done in Manatee County was in 1983!!!!
HOW ARE DEVELOPERS ABLE TO CONTROL MANATEE COUNTY?
Information for Voters - 27 FEB 2016
Everyone knows that the developers control both the Board of County Commissioners and the School Board. That insures that the developers can get just about any land development project approved and can keep impact fees down or absent. Not even one cent of school impact fees has been collected since 2008. Manatee County has been severely damaged by the unethical practices of the developers under the guise of “growth” and job creation. They were instrumental in getting the school half-cent sales tax approved by voters in 2002 by disguising the fact that much of the revenue from that tax would be used to pay for school infrastructure that should have been paid for by developers in the form of school impact fees. It is estimated that the developers have profited as much as a half-billion dollars (yes, billion with a “B”) over the past twenty years to thirty years.
So, how have the developers been able to gain and keep control of the County and the School System? It isn’t that complicated. By funding the election ...
MOSAIC IS NOT MEETING RESTORATION OBLIGATION
The County Commissioners need to see this.
We don't know what the county is getting for allowing Mosaic to totally destroy huge amounts of land in northeast Manatee County or for polluting millions of gallons of our precious water but whatever it is, it isn't worth it. Look at this slide show and see what they consider "restoration". (Note: Slideshow may take a minute or more to download and open after clicking on the "slide show" link above.)
IMPACT FEES EXPLAINED
Lower Impact Fees = Higher Taxes
Suppose someone buys 1000 acres out east in Manatee County and decides to "develop" that land. Prior to his purchase the land was used for agriculture, some tomato and strawberry fields and some cattle. The buyer gets a good price because the land is isolated and the only way to get there is down a three mile long dirt road from State Road 64.
He goes to the County and requests a "land use" change from AG/R (Agricultural/Rural) to MU (Mixed Use). That would allow a combination of uses including residential, small business, light industrial, hotel, medical offices, and similar construction. Essentially he is planning a small not-incorporated town with some local shops and services. It is a long process with public hearings and a lot of input but eventually it is approved.
In order for the land to be easily accessed roads will have to be built so the owner works with the County to design roads, plan water and sewer lines and even an elementary school. There will also have to be police and fire protection, emergency services, street cleaning equipment and public parks. In short, there will need to be all kinds of infrastructure to support the planned 5,000 or so homes and businesses on the site.
So, who should pay for all that infrastructure that is required for this new community? Should the existing residents of the county have to pay for it or should the people who buy the new homes and other new buildings in the development have to pay?
Until 1986 there was no way in Florida for local governments to charge for all the newly required infrastructure. Because Florida was growing rapidly local governments had to expend hundreds of millions of dollars to provide the new infrastructure. Taxes were skyrocketing and existing infrastructure was being neglected. Something had to be done.
In 1986 the Florida Legislature passed the Impact Fee Act that allowed local governments to charge developers fees to pay for the cost of new infrastructure needed to support new development. That took the burden off existing residents and put it on developers who passed that cost on to home buyers or other new construction buyers.
The law is very strict and requires that a study be done to determine the actual cost of the infrastructure and the rate that should be charged for each new structure to cover the cost of the needed infrastructure. Studies must be "recent" and based on local data.
There are two types of impact fees; "county impact fees" and "school impact fees" (called educational facilities impact fees in Manatee County). School impact fees cover all new school related infrastructure including schools, school buses, land to build the schools on, interest on bonds sold to finance new schools, etc. County impact fees cover roads, water and sewer lines, parks, emergency services vehicles, etc.
The actual impact fees depend on the type, size, and location (within the county) of the new structure. Impact fees are lower in the south-west part of Manatee County because there is already a lot of existing infrastructure there. Impact fees are higher (as in our example) where there is very little or no infrastructure.
Impact fees are charged when a building permit is issued but are not due until a "certificate of occupancy" is issued after the property has passed all inspections. The price of the new structure includes the cost of the impact fees but developers may charge whatever the market will allow. All the expenses of buying a new house are included in the "cost basis". The impact fee is part of the investment in the new home.
When the original buyer eventually sells his home, the new buyer does not have to pay another impact fee since it has already been paid and is included as part of the cost of the house. Impact fees are a one-time charge and only have to be paid by the original owner. The infrastructure that the impact fee paid for comes with the house much as the a driveway or garage does.
When a community gives a developer a discount on an impact fee or suspends it all together the developer is under no obligation to pass the savings on to the new home buyer and there is no evidence that has ever happens. Developers set the price of their new homes at whatever the market will support. The bottom limit of that price is whatever it cost the developer to build the house including any impact fees plus a percentage profit margin. As you would expect, developers will always try to make the highest possible profit on each house.
So, what if there is a discount or suspension of impact fees. Is some of the infrastructure not built? The answer is no. Some non-essential infrastructure may be delayed but because of State laws it all must be built and essential infrastructure must be ready when the development needs it. That is referred to as concurrency. The infrastructure must be ready by the time the development needs it regardless of whether impact fees were paid.
If funding is not available for the infrastructure, the county sells bonds and pays them back plus interest with tax dollars. That means that everybody pays including those who have already paid their impact fees either directly or indirectly when they buy a pre-owned home.
Impact fees have a positive effect on the local economy because they create jobs to provide the needed infrastructure while keeping taxes lower thus giving taxpayers more cash to spend in local stores, restaurants, and other businesses.
If you have any questions please email us at email@example.com Frequently asked questions and answers will be added below.
SALES TAX REVENUE WAS USED TO PAY SCHOOL IMPACT FEES
What the developers didn't want us to know
It appears that at least some of the half-cent school sales tax revenue has been used to pay debt service on bonds used to fund new schools, purchase portables, and other capital expenditures that were necessitated by new development. Those expenditures should have been paid for with revenue from school impact fees. In effect, we, those who pay sales tax on just about everything we buy, subsidized the developers by paying for capital expenditures that should have been financed by school impact fee revenue.
This is based on preliminary information and it is not known if any laws were broken. It is probable that individuals within the School District and the County Government were aware of this arrangement. It would also explain why the developers are so anxious to see continuation of the half-cent sales tax. The less impact fees they pay the more profit they make.
The bottom line is that sales tax revenue that could have been used to improve our schools and help our teachers provide a better education was used instead to pay back bonds that financed new schools, new school buses, and other capital improvements that should have been paid for with impact fee revenue.
WHEN IS EXCESS SCHOOL CAPACITY NOT EXCESS CAPACITY?
A learning opportunity for developers
Developers often cite “excess capacity” as a reason why school impact fees are not needed to build more schools here in Manatee County. That shows a lack of understanding about how schools operate. They seem to think that every student seat in every classroom in every school should be occupied 100% of the school day to have full capacity. Realistically that can never happen.
First, here in Florida we are under the 18/22/25 restriction which refers to the maximum number of students per grades PK-3, grades 4-8 and grades 9-12 classrooms respectively. But very seldom is the number of students going to equal a multiple of those numbers. For example suppose an elementary school has 45 students in third grade. Since the maximum number of students in a third grade class is 18 there will need to be three third-grade classrooms which could accommodate 54 students resulting in an excess of 9 students seats. And, that is just one grade in one school. Manatee County has a total of 49 schools each with multiple grades.
Another factor developers don’t seem to understand is that ESE students (special needs) require more attention including special equipment and smaller classes. Those classrooms will appear to have excess capacity.
Middle schools and high schools need special lab classrooms for chemistry, biology, physics and other sciences as well as vocational classrooms, music rooms, and computer labs. Some classes may have fewer students than the maximum because of scheduling problems or smaller numbers of students in more advanced classes.
Sometimes schools have “floaters”, teachers who float from classroom to classroom, to teach a class in other teacher’s classrooms while they are having their preparation period. That utilizes an otherwise vacant classroom but makes if difficult for the displaced teacher to do their preparation without their classroom materials. It is also difficult for the floaters because they have to move all their materials from classroom to classroom. That is far from an ideal situation but does reduce apparent “excess capacity”. Avoiding that situation would be better for teachers and students but would result in more apparent excess capacity.
Another issue in Manatee County is the fact that the Manatee School District is divided into five zones (actually sub-districts) to match political boundaries. If there is excess capacity in one zone, it is considered as capacity in all contiguous zones. The zones are divided in such a way that each zone is contiguous to three other zones, and one (District 2) is contiguous to ALL the others. That means that students theoretically could be bussed across the whole county. That would reduce “excess capacity” but would be unfair to the students.
Portable classrooms have become the norm in Manatee County. In 2002 when the half-cent school sales tax was approved one of the promises to promote passage was that the School district would “Stop Using Portables As Permanent Classrooms”. Today we have a total of 208 portable classrooms, at least 50 more than we had in 2002. Portable classrooms are supposed to be temporary and should not be considered as permanent “student stations”. Lakewood Ranch HS has 21 portables alone.
When all these factors are taken into consideration, it is obvious that we have an extreme shortage of adequate classrooms in Manatee County. The School district should collect 100% of the recommended school impact fee to help pay for the six new schools that were recommended by the TischlerBise School Impact Fee Study.
For a more technical analysis of student capacity, click here.
IMPACT FEE OR IMPACT TAX? WHAT'S THE DIFFERENCE
Why isn't an impact fee called an impact tax? Well, a tax and a fee are both used to raise revenue. A fee is to raise revenue to pay for something that specifically benefits the payer. A tax on the other hand raises revenue that may pay for a multitude of things some of which may benefit the payer and some which may not benefit the payer in any way.
Some individuals who are opposed to impact fees may call them a tax but that is not correct since impact fees are usually paid by developers and passed on to buyers of the property who directly benefit from the roads, pipelines, schools, parks, libraries, and other infrastructure that is paid for with the impact fee revenue.
If a local government reduces or suspends collection of an impact fee, the infrastructure is usually funded by selling bonds which must be paid back by taxpayers who receive no direct benefit from the infrastructure.
Ironically, reducing or suspending impact fees has a negative effect on the local economy since it reduces the flow of cash in the community because taxpayers will have less money to spend. Using impact fees to build infrastructure, on the other hand, creates jobs thus stimulating the economy.
HOW DO SCHOOL IMPACT FEES AFFECT
MORTGAGE PAYMENTS OF A NEW HOME?
Developers have claimed that school impact fees will increase the price of a new home and will drive potential buyers away. They have presented no proof so let's do the math to see if their claim is reasonable.
We'll consider a new home priced at $250,000 where the buyer pays 20% and takes out a 30 year mortgage at 4.00%. We'll look at mortgage payments without school impact fees and with the $6,475.00 school impact fee added. The cost of the home with the impact fee would be $256,475.00.
$250,000 Single-Family Detached House
||No Impact Fee
||With Impact Fee
School Impact Fee
30 year @ 4%
| ($24.73 more per month)
|($0.81 more per day)
Clearly a mortgage payment 81 cents more per day would NOT be a deciding factor for for anyone considering purchase of a $250,000 home.
THE SCHOOL BOARD SHOULD WITHDRAW ITS IMPACT FEE RESOLUTION
December 6, 2015
Developer representatives met with School Board members (one on one) prior to the November 10th School Board Meeting to influence their decisions concerning school impact fees. Days before that meeting Dr. Green announced that she would seek a phase-in of school impact fees over a three year periods, 50% the first year, 75% the second year, and 100% thereafter. It is not know how Dr. Green arrived at that plan but it is suspected that she was influenced by developer friendly individuals within the school system.
During the Board meeting Dr. Green read her previously released plan. A long discussion ensued while School Board members considered her proposal. What the public did not know was that there was another plan which had been discussed between Board members and developer representatives, a plan that could be very lucrative to the developers. What appeared to be a spontaneous transition from Dr. Green's plan to one that tied in the half-percent school sales tax was actually an orchestrated plan by the developers. The result was a plan in which the School District can not possibly collect the maximum possible revenue (100% impact fee + property tax + half-cent sales tax) while the developers stand the possibility of paying only half the school impact fee. The developers had nothing to lose and the possibility of retaining millions of dollars in discounted school impact fees. And, to sweeten the deal the developers agreed to promote the sales tax referendum. They could invest millions of dollars in that and still come out ahead.
The table below shows the two possible outcomes of the School Board vote and a third possibility if the Board withdraws its resolution and passes a new resolution that requires the developers to pay the full school impact fee as recommended by the impact fees study for which the school system paid $50,000.
School District Revenue
Half-cent sales tax is extended
Pay 50% of school impact fee thus keeping $10M-$12M*
Continues to get half-cent sales tax, $30M, but loses half of impact fee $10M-$12M
Net revenue = $40M - $42M
Higher school property tax to compensate for lower income from impact fees and sales tax stays the same.
Half-cent sales tax is not extended
Pay 100% of school impact fee: $20-$24M
Gets impact fee but no sales tax revenue
Net revenue $20M-$24M
Higher school property tax to compensate for loss of sales tax revenue but sales tax on purchases is reduced a half-cent per dollar.
Sales tax is extended and developers pay 100% of school impact fee
Pay 100% of school impact fee $20-$24M
Gets revenue from impact fee + sales tax
Net revenue = $50M-54M
Property tax stays the same and Sales tax stays the same.
|* School impact fee revenue depends on the amount of new construction and is estimated at $20M-24M per year (updated 6/9/16).
In Scenario 1 the developers pay only half the recommended school impact fee so they come out $10M-$12M ahead while the School district is down the same amount and the tax payers have to pay higher property taxes to cover higher service on bonds that will have to be sold to build new schools required because of new construction.
In Scenario 2 the developers pay the recommended school impact fees so they are even while the School District receives more impact fees but tax payers have to pay higher property taxes to compensate for loss of revenue for the schools from the sales tax but they save money because the sales tax will drop from 6.5% to 6.0%.
In Scenario 3 the developers pay the recommended school impact fees so they are even while the School District receives more impact fees and continues to receive revenue from the sales tax. The tax payers would not have to pay higher property tax since the School District is receiving income from developers, sales tax and property tax at the same rate.
Confusing? You bet!!! That's the way the developers want it because they think we are too dumb to figure out their schemes to cheat us and our kids. That is why the School Board must withdraw their resolution and consider an option that will give no concessions to the developers. The School Board should not be in the business of negotiating with the developers in any way. They should be in the business of looking out for the best interest of our students and that means getting every cent they can for our school system including 100% of the school impact fee, the half-cent sales tax, and the property tax (Scenario 3). That is what they must sell and if they can prove to the tax payers that they deserve their respect and trust, that is what they will get. The developers have only more profit in mind and couldn't care less about our kids or the tax payers of Manatee County.
The right thing for the School Board to do is to withdraw their resolution, submit a new resolution which requires the developers to pay 100% of the school impact fee as recommended by the TischlerBise study and take the remaining months before the vote on the possible referendum to gain the respect and trust of the voters.
SHOULD THE DEVELOPERS PAY 90% OR 100% 0F THEIR IMPACT FEES?
November 30, 2015
County administrator, Ed Hunzeker, thinks developers should have to pay only 90% of the impact fee as determined by the impact fee study done by TischlerBise a reputable firm that has done over 900 impact fee studies all over the United States. The County Attorney's office recommended that the $172,000 study be done to make sure impact fee rates are calculated on the most recent and localized data as specified by the Florida's Impact Fee Act.
Impact fees pay for infrastructure that would not be required except for the needs of new development. Those fees will pay for Multimodal Transportation (new roads, widening roads, other transportation capacity-increasing requirements), new required libraries, new parks and preserves, law enforcement, and public safety (EMS). These fees will only cover capital expenditures for new infrastructure required because of new development. None of the income from these fees will be used for operation and maintenance of new or existing infrastructure.
The study calculated impact fee rates based on local needs for infrastructure that will be required based on information provided by the County. It is the actual funding that is required based on the best available information. So, why does the County Administrator want to give the developers a 10% discount? "Wiggle room", that is what Mr. Hunzeker said at a recent BoCC meeting. He explained that during his early career (approximately 1975) someone made a mistake calculating impact fees that led to a refund of a portion of the impact fees which apparently was very complicated and took three years.
Well, things have changed in the past forty years. We have computers now to do calculations and to compute refunds in the very remote chance that a mistake was made. It is not worth a 10% discount which represents hundreds of millions of dollars to insure that developers won't have to be given a refund in the very unlikely chance that one of our very advanced computers made a mistake.
So, yes, the developers MUST pay for their fair share of the cost of new development, not one cent less or not one cent more. If the BoCC votes on Thursday to give the developers a 10%, multimillion dollar discount, the tax payers of Manatee County will have to make up the difference. Let's see if they do the right thing on Thursday and, make the developers pay for 100% for what they receive. If they don't we won't forget in November, 2016, regardless of how much money the developers give them for their campaigns. Just do the right thing.
SHOULD TAX PAYERS SUBSIDIZE DEVELOPERS?
November 25, 2015
If the Manatee County School District does not collect 100% of the recommended school impact fee, there will not be enough money to build five news schools over the next ten years as recommended by the recent school impact fee study. So, where will all that money come from? The School District will have to sell bonds which will have to be paid back by all tax payers in the county. Not only that, tax payers will have to pay interest on those bonds
So, what's the problem? Well, the State of Florida passed the Impact Fee Act in 1986 to help local governments, such as Manatee County, pay for infrastructure that is ONLY required because of new development. When someone buys a NEW house (only new houses) an impact fee may be charged to cover the cost of new infrastructure that is required because of that new construction. There is a separate School Impact Fee that covers construction of new schools, purchase of land for new schools, build additions to existing schools, buy required new school buses, pay interest, and any other capital exp endure required ONLY BECAUSE OF NEW HOME CONSRUCTION.
Impact fees are investments in the community. They are part of the cost of a new house and increase the value of the house. No one would ever buy a house that wasn't connected to water lines and sewer lines or if it didn't have roads and streets leading up to the house, or police cars, fire trucks, or ambulances that service that area or schools where their kids could go and school buses that would pick them up and bring them back home. Impact fees pay for all those things and much more. A house with all those services has a lot more value than one without them. When a new home buyer pays for a new house the impact fee is included in the cost of the house and when the house is later sold the new owner pays the total cost of the house including what the original owner paid in impact fees. The original owners get that money back when they sell their house. That is why the second owner and all future owners don't have to pay a new impact fee. It is included with the price of the house as are the use of all the services paid for by the original impact fee.
When someone doesn't have to pay the impact fee when they buy a new house because it was suspended or reduced , who pays for all those things that impact fees would have paid for? The developers certainly don't pay for them and there is no proof that the developers pass the savings on to the new owners. The answer is that we, the taxpayers, have to pay for all that infrastructure that the new home buyer gets to use and actually gets to sell when the house is sold.
The idea of reducing impact fees originated with the developers.They argued that reduced impact fees would allow developers to sell homes for less but there is no proof that actually happened. The theory goes that more home sales would create more jobs which would improve the economy. That sounds good but it isn't true. Nonetheless the developers were able to convince both the Board of County Commissioners and the School Board that by cutting impact fees the economy would actually improve. THAT IS NOT TRUE!!!!
Cutting impact fees has a negative effect on the economy and here is why. When tax payers have to pay for infrastructure that should have been paid by impact fees that reduces the amount of money those tax payers have to spend in the local economy. The tax payers don't have as much money so they don't spend as much and local merchants and restaurants don't have as many customers. That results in workers being laid off which further hurts the economy.
In addition the County has to pay for the infrastructure required for new construction. That reduces the amount available for normal operations within the community such as street maintenance, repair and up dating of existing infrastructure and a multitude of other expenses. The result is that the maintenance schedules are pushed back, community employees are laid off, and things begin to deteriorate making the community less desirable. You may have noticed more pot holes in the streets, streets not cleaned as often, overgrown areas, unpainted community property and more.
County employees complained last year to County officials that they could no longer keep up with maintenance because of lack of funding and that resulted in a recommendation by the County Attorney's Office for new impact fee studies which were completed last month at a total cost $222,000 (county and school). Contrary to what some county officials are claiming, the new recommended impact fees are about the same as they were in 2007. See the "Staff Impact Fee Presentation to BoCC Very Misleading" article below for more information.
Impact fee collection MUST be resumed at 100% of the recommended rate as soon as possible. Neither the County nor the School District should subsidize the developers any longer. There was no reason to ever do that and there are no excuses for the County or the School District to not charge 100% of the recommended impact fees now. Failure to do that is contrary to the best interests of our county and our schools. For our elected officials to do otherwise is flat wrong and would be a slap in the fact to the hard working tax payers of manatee County.
STAFF IMPACT FEE PRESENTATION TO BOCC VERY MISLEADING
November 22, 2015
The Board of County Commissioners depends on the "Staff" (employees of the county who are experts in specific areas) to provide accurate information which will help them make decisions on votes they must make (Yes, they must vote and may not abstain). It is very important that all the information the staff provides is accurate and unbiased. That was not the case on November 10th when the staff used a PowerPoint presentation to brief the Commissioners about the recent impact fee study done by TischlerBise, a very reputable firm that has done over 900 impact fee studies all over the United States.
Look at this graph from the PowerPoint presentation (click here). My first impression was, wow! this isn't fair. Manatee County will be charging more impact fees than just about any other county and almost twice as much as we are charging now. But, there is a problem. It isn't true. The information is presented in such a way that it appears that Manatee County is way out of line when it comes to charging impact fees. Clearly someone or some group is trying to influence decisions that the Board of Commissioners makes about charging impact fees.
So, what is wrong with the graph? First the State of Florida Impact Fee Act requires "that the calculation of the impact fee be based on the most recent and localized data." The only data in the graph that is both recent and local is the Manatee County data so any comparison to data in other counties is not valid because it is not local and some of it is over fifteen years old (Hillsborough County) and none of it is recent. Also, other counties have very different ways of raising revenue and differ in many other ways such as population and size. Several of the counties in the graph have over a million more people than Manatee County (350,000). Some of the other counties (Pinellas County for example) are totally built out. There is very little if any available agricultural space which means that those counties already have an almost complete system of water and sewer pipelines, roads, and other infrastructure so, of course, any new construction is going to require less infrastructure than Manatee County where new housing is springing up in former orange groves and tomato or strawberry fields which require 100% new infrastructure.That is why impact fees are going to be higher in Manatee County. More infrastructure requires higher impact fees.
The Commissioners will only be voting on Manatee County impact fees so why were school impact fees and Facility Investment Fees (FIF's) included in the graph? Because someone wanted it to look like the fees recommended by the study (at a cost of $172K) were not accurate.
And, why can't you see the PowerPoint presentation on the County website. Because it has never been posted as required by the State Sunshine Laws. You could have seen it on the video of the meeting until Friday when the link was removed. That was illegal too. Fortunately, the video is still on the server and we have the URL. So if you click HERE, you will be able to see the whole meeting including the graphs.
We have taken Manatee County data (only) and have produced a graph that compares impact fee data from 2007, 2009, and 2011 with the most recent data from the TischlerBise impact fee study which cost the County $172,000. That study divides the County into four districts each with its own impact fee rate. That information is graphed along with the average rate for all four districts. Note that the average rate is only $84 more that the 2007 rate. The rates in 2009 and 2011 were lower because the developers convinced the BoCC that it would help sell more houses and produce more jobs during a slumping economy. There is absolutely no proof that even a single house was sold because of reduced impact fees.
You may see the new graph by clicking HERE. As you can see there is no reason why Manatee County should not charge the full recommended impact fee, 100%, as recommended by the most recent impact fee study and not 90% as recommended by the County Administrator. If they don't, you know who will make up the difference. You, the taxpayer will.
WHO BROKE THE LAW?
November 18, 2015
Was it the County or the School District or both that totally ignored Ordinance 11-022 which required that a study of school Impact Fees be done before July 27, 2013. Section 3(c) of that Ordinance states in part that:
"During the aforesaid four-year period the County, in cooperation with the school board, shall conduct a study of the educational facilities impact fee, and at the end of such four-year period shall make such modifications to Section 2-29-85 as are necessary to assure that the rates established thereunder are based on the most recent and localized data in accordance with the requirements of Section 163.31801 , Florida Statutes".
After the suspension of school impact fees (called "educational facilities impact fees" in the Ordinance) ended on July 27, 2013, it was anticipated that collection of school impact fees would be immediately resumed, but they weren't. When the County was questioned about that, they responded that resumption "Require that the calculation of the impact fee be based on the most recent and localized data." and that required a recent study (within five years) that had not been done.
That raises the question, why wasn't the study done as required by the ordinance? Who, the person or persons, was responsible for arranging that the study be done? When they failed to fulfill their responsibility to arrange for the study they performed an illegal act by omission and they should be made accountable because they broke the law and cost the School System tens of millions of dollars.
Until these questions are answered and those responsible are made accountable we, the voters of Manatee County, should not approve the extension of the half-percent sales tax.
SCHOOL BOARD TRICKED BY DEVELOPERS
November 14, 2015
The State of Florida enacted the Impact Fee Act in 1986 to allow communities all over Florida to make developers pay for infrastructure (schools, land for schools, school buses, and more) that is required because of new development. To make sure communities weren't overcharging they were required to do a study that would determine how much the developers should pay.
Before impact fees were allowed, high growth communities were being devastated trying to keep up with new infrastructure required by new development and taxes were going through the roof. When communities such as Manatee County started collecting impact fees the developers complained because that cut into their profit. Their solution was to find candidates they could control and and then finance their campaigns. It worked, candidates elected because of the financial support of the developers started changing the local impact fee ordinances giving the developers huge profits and increasing taxes on tax payers.
That is what happened in 2009 when the Board of County Commissioners in collaboration with the School Board suspended collection of school impact fees. Since then the school system has lost over sixty million dollars because of non-collection of school impact fees and the developers now have that money to finance more candidates but most of it goes directly into their bank accounts.
The ordinance that suspended the collection of school impact fees required that a study be done before collection could be resumed but unlawfully the study wasn't done so the suspension continued. Finally, this year, 2015, the study was done (at a cost of $50,000 to the school system) by TischlerBise, a very reputable and well known company that has done over 900 impact fee studies all over the country. The study results indicate two things: 1)There is a need to collect school impact fees and 2)The amount of that fee is established for each kind of residential construction.
In spite of these recommendations the School Board passed a resolution that is nothing short of blackmail. Instead of requiring that the developers pay the full recommended school impact fee it will only be charged 50% the first year, 75% the second year, and 100% thereafter. BUT, THERE ARE CONDITIONS THAT TIE THE SCHOOL IMPACT FEE RATE TO RENEWAL OF THE HALF CENT SCHOOL SALES TAX WE ALL HAVE BEEN PAYING SINCE 2002. IF THE TAX IS EXTENDED THE DEVELOPERS WILL CONTINUE TO PAY ONLY 50% OF THE SCHOOL IMPACT FEE. IF THE SALES TAX IS NOT EXTENDED THE DEVELOPERS WILL EVENTUALLY HAVE TO PAY 100% OF THE IMPACT FEE BUT THE SCHOOL SYSTEM WILL NOT HAVE THE REVENUE FROM THE SALES TAX AND SCHOOL TAXES WILL HAVE TO GO UP. THAT IS BLACKMALE PURE AND SIMPLE. WE TAX PAYERS LOSE EITHER WAY.
How did this happen? How did the School Board come up with this complex scheme during the meeting. Did they meet with developers before the meeting or was there illegal communication between members of the School Board and the developers. Look at the video on the School Board website. (click on the blue text). It is a long meeting but you may scroll to different parts of the meeting by pointing to the bottom of the video and by dragging the little circle that appears in the gray bar. What do you see? (Make sure you look at 4:08:00 in the video, at Neal and Beruff in the background.) Are there any attempts by any individuals to send text messages during the meeting? Is there any evidence that Board members are reading or writing text messages. Does anyone's phone ring during the meeting. You be the judge.
DEVELOPERS TRYING TO CHEAT US AND OUR KIDS AGAIN
November 8, 2015
We are OUTRAGED. The developers have, once again, tampered
with the School Board to delay full implantation of School Impact Fees. We just realized that School Board Resolution 15-08 includes wording that will delay 100% collection of School Impact Fees for two years. The first year they would pay only 50%, the second year only 75%, and only during the third year would they pay the full amount. Haven't they cheated our kids enough? Haven't they cheated the taxpayers enough? The School Board MUST amend Resolution 15-08 so that the full School Impact Fee is collected IMMEDIATELY.
SAVE GLAZIER-GATES PARK
September 12, 2015
The City of Bradenton wants to GIVE Glazier-Gates Park to developers so they can
chop down all the 100+ year old trees and everything else and build 531 multi-story
"upscale” apartment units. Click HERE to read more.
Confused About School Impact Fees?
June 14, 2015
Click HERE to view a PowerPoint Show about what they are and how Manatee County is subsidizing land developers at the expense of tax payers.
Our Manatee County Schools Have A
"C" Rating - What Does That Mean?
May 6, 2015
According to the Florida Department of Education, these are the scores Manatee County Schools received in various subject areas to earn the "C" rating for 2014:
Reading - Satisfactory or Higher = 55%
Math - Satisfactory or Higher = 59%
Writing - Satisfactory or Higher = 53%
Science - Satisfactory or Higher = 66%
Isn't it misleading to give the Manatee County School District a "C" rating with scores like that? Can't we do better? Would better funding help? Would the $60,000,000+ in school impact fees the schools didn't receive since 2009 have helped? The suspension of collection of school impact fees ended in July, 2013 but the County (Which is responsible for collecting those fees) has not done so. They are in non-compliance of Ordinance 11-022. Is it time to take legal action? Let us know your thoughts. Send your emails to firstname.lastname@example.org
Manatee County is Giving Home Builders
at Least $10,000.00 Per Day of Your Money
May 2, 2015
Contrary to the wishes of the taxpayers of Manatee County the Board of County Commissioners approved (in 2009) a suspension of the "charging and collection" of school impact fees. That suspension ended on July 27, 2013 yet the County has not collected one cent in school impact fees from home builders since then. Click here to see the ordinance which specifies the specific dates of the suspension (highlighted). The County has claimed that an impact fee study must be done before they may resume collection of school impact fees. That is not true. The State of Florida requires a study be done before a new impact fee is imposed or if new rates are to be imposed but it does not say that a study must be done when collection of an impact is resumed after a suspension. It does say that impact fee "must be based the most recent and localized data". Although the data was collected before the suspension of the collection of the fees it is still the most recent until a new study is done. Click here to see Florida Impact Fee Statute 163.31801.
School Impact Fees Still
Not Being Collected By County
April 18, 2015
Click here to see a PowerPoint Show that outlines how developers, in cahoots with certain County officials, have been able to defraud Manatee County taxpayers of millions of dollars and how they are continuing to do so after more than five-and-a-half years.
School Impact Fees Not Collected
by County as Required by Law
Feb. 6, 2015
On May 19, 2009, the County enacted Ordinance No. 09-36 to “temporarily suspend the levy of Educational Facilities Fees" (School impact fees). That ordinance became effective on July 27, 2009.
Fee collection was scheduled to resume on July 27, 2011 but on June 22nd , 2011, the Board of County Commissioners passed Ordinance 11-22 which extended the suspension of school impact fees for two more years with a new resumption date of July 27, 2013. After extensive searching, no further extension of the suspension of school impact fees could be found on the County website, the School District website or elsewhere in the Internet..
As of July 27th, 2013 Manatee County should have been collecting a school impact fee for every permit granted for the construction of a dwelling unit in Manatee County and those funds should now be available to the school district for approved expenditures.
It appears that the County may not have collected school impact fees after July 27, 2013 as scheduled. It is not known why those fees were not collected as required by law. If this is, in fact the case, it is not know how the County plans to collect the past-due school impact fees.
No School Impact Fees
Means No New Schools
Jan. 11, 2015
School Impact Fees were suspended on July 27th, 2009 and were scheduled to resume on July 27th, 2013. As of January 10, 2015 collection of school impact fees has not been resumed. The developers get to keep the money and there is no money for new schools or for other capitol expenditures necessitated by new development. Click here to see an image of the County website that was captured in December, 2014 but has since been changed.
15 Reasons Why You Should Not
Vote for Carol Whitmore
October 16, 2014
- She voted to change Long Bar Pointe from 100% residential to mixed use including offices, shops, big box stores such as Wal-Mart and Home Depot, a conference center and small industrial
- She voted for formation of an Urban Service Area including Long Bar Pointe which along with other nearby agricultural areas are clearly not “urban”.
- She attended a rally for Gov. Scott instead of a scheduled budget meeting.
- She approved destruction of wetlands to expand phosphate mining.
- She voted in favor of the referendum to increase sales tax.
- She voted in favor of extending Hunzeker’s contract 5 years with $60K increase each year.
- She voted in favor of consolidating County Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA) districts and additional areas into a lager Tax Increment Financing (TIF) zone.
- She voted to extend the $140,000,000 solid waste (garbage) collection contract until 2023 without seeking bids from other companies
- She consistently votes when there is a conflict of interest. Among others her Facebook page lists Carlos Beruff, Pat Neal, and Ed Vogler as friends.
- She consistently ignores or does not understand the concerns of regular citizens.
- She has accepted donations for her campaigns from multiple developers, their numerous subordinate LLCs and employees
- She has accepted donations from companies that have contracts with the County
- She was unaware of what was going on with Animal Services which is under her purview
- She is in favor of using deep well injection to dispose of toxic (radioactive) waste in the gypsum stacks at Port Manatee. Whitmore is chairman of the Port Authority.
- She has been duped by those who want favors and she doesn’t even know it. Does she really think she would be friends with Carlos Beruff and Pat Neal if she wasn’t a commissioner?
BoCC Requested to Petition Obama
to Protect Cortez Village and Seagrass
September 20, 2014
On Tuesday, September 16th, a group of Manatee County residents journeyed down to the County office building to attend a BoCC workshop and to request that the Board petition President Obama to declare the Seagrass area of Sarasota Bay south of Cortez Village as a protected National Preserve. See Bradenton Times article here. Please click the link to the right of this article to sign the petition. (After signing and clicking the "Sign Now" button there will be a request from the website for a donation. No donation is required, just close the page.)
Letter to the editor Topic: Just say "NO" to Mosaic!
July 6, 2014
"On 6/3/14 there was a letter in the Charlotte Sun titled "Just say "NO" to Mosaic. The letter asks "Has your community or organization accepted money from Mosaic. If so, that "gift" comes with strings. Your group may now be listed on the Mosaic site as a "supporter"
of strip mining. Since you took the money, do you really think you can object to anything they do in the future? Would you dare?"
His advice was to think twice about taking money from any corporation with an agenda. He stated individual integrity is worth something and when Mosaic comes around with their checkbook open, turn them down."
If you agree with this letter, please send a follow-up letter to the editor of the Charlotte Sun at email@example.com. It can be as simple as "I agree with the letter writer and just say "NO" to Mosaic" or a letter wondering if everything is for sale?
The point is to get enough letters to the editor to make it a "press event". You see the commercials Mosaic has on television every day. We MUST combat their media onslaught with one of our own.
Please blind copy your letter to firstname.lastname@example.org
so that a response number can be recorded. It is important to generate as many letters as possible, flooding the newspaper and creating a news event.
Please forward this to everyone you know and ask them to also take action.
Remember, unlike us, many people are new to the area. They think Mosaic grows oranges and creates nature better than what is was. They have never seen the moonscape of phosphate strip mining. They need to be educated in the truth about this industry."
Long Bar Pointe - Phase 1
Preliminaty Site Plan
On February 6, 2014, Long Bar Pointe Phase 1 Preliminary Site Plan (aka Shoebox City*) was approved with stipulations by the BoCC. The developers have resubmitted the plans for consideration. Contrary to standard practice, they ignored some of the stipulations and recommendations and reintroduced some features that had been removed prior to consideration by the Board. The Planning Services Division has reviewed the “revised” plans and returned them with twelve pages of required changes.
*Refers to the shape and size of the lots
Long Bar Pointe - It Isn't Over Yet
December 27, 2013
With the developer's letter to the County ( December 19th) we have a temporary reprieve from our efforts to work toward retention of an environmentally sound Manatee county. In case you missed it, the letter requested withdrawal of the Comprehensive Map Amendment "from further consideration or action at this time". Had that amendment been approved the future land use for most of the Long Bar Point property would have been changed from RES-9 (9 residential units/acre) to MU (Mixed Use - which would have seriously increased the use intensity and total population density of the property).
The letter indicated that they, the developers, were reconsidering their options and it suggested that they have not given up on the marina idea. We need to be prepared for another proposed change to the County Comprehensive Plan including a text amendment and a map amendment.
We cannot accept any development that will in any way cause harm to Sarasota Bay, the mangrove forest, or the diverse wildlife population in the area. We also need to be concerned with a significant increase in population (10,000+) in that part of the County and the repercussions that will have on traffic, schools, emergency services, and other infrastructure. And, we must insure that people and property are not put in harms way by building in the coastal high hazard area. We will be vigilant and we will make our concerns known.
Here We Go Again - Long Bar Pointe
The BoCC has rescheduled the Long Bar Pointe hearing to January 23, 2014. At that meeting the Board will consider the “Long Bar Map Amendment – PA-13-03”. If the Board approves that amendment the Long Bar Pointe property "Future Land Use" will change from RES-9 to MU. We are opposed to this change because in addition to residential construction it would also allow construction of hotels/motels, retail stores such as Walmart, offices, light industrial, warehouse stores such as Sam’s Club, conference centers, and more. Click here for a more complete comparison chart.
We believe that if approved it would have a very damaging impact on Manatee County and disastrous impact on the Long Bar Pointe property and Sarasota Bay. If you agree, please click on the link to the right and sign the petition which opposes this change in Future Land Use. This is a new petition directed at PA-13-03 so please sign this petition even if you signed petitions for the August, 2013 meeting. (Continued - click here to see more.)
The Truth About Long Bar Pointe
Last summer the developers made a number of erroneous statements about Long Bar Point which we refuted. To see the TRUTH and how we set the record straight click here.