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The Dawn of a New Manatee County, Florida

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MOSAIC IS NOT MEETING RESTORATION OBLIGATION
The County Commissioners need to see this.

craneWe 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 request 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 ourmanateecounty@gmail.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 Braden River HSprobable 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.

Bayshore HSFirst, 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 Difference
         
Cost
250,000.00
 
250,000.00
 
School Impact Fee
0.00
 
6,475.00
 
Total Cost
250,000.00
 
256,475.00
 
         
20% down
50,000
 
51,295.00
 
         
Mortgage
200,000.00
 
205,180.00
 
         
30 year @ 4%
$954.83/month
 
$979.56/month
($24.73 more per month)
Per Day
$31.39/month
$32.20/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

Scenario

Developers

School District

Tax Payers

1

Half-cent sales tax is extended

Pay 50% of school impact fee thus keeping $7M-$8M*

Continues to get half-cent sales tax, $30M, but loses half of impact fee $7M-$8M
Net revenue = $37M - $38M

Higher school property tax to compensate for lower income from impact fees and sales tax stays the same.

2

Half-cent sales tax is not extended

Pay 100% of school impact fee: $14-$16M

Gets impact fee but no sales tax revenue
Net revenue $14M-$16M

Higher school property tax to compensate for loss of sales tax revenue but sales tax on purchases is reduced a half-cent per dollar.

3

Sales tax is extended and developers pay 100% of school impact fee

Pay 100% of school impact fee $12-$16M

Gets revenue from impact fee + sales tax
Net revenue = $44M-46M

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 $12M-16M per year (updated 12/12/15)..

In Scenario 1 the developers pay only half the recommended school impact fee so they come out $7M-$8M 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 next eleven 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.

ImpactFeeImpact 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 graphCounty 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 ourmanateecounty@gmail.com


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

 

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 letters@sun-herald.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 nophosphatestripmine@gmail.com
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
Aptil, 2014

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
November, 2013

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.

We Will Not Forget

Who should you vote for? That is a question many people ask before they go to the polls. Often voters are swayed by glitzy ads, billboards, information they receive in the mail, and name recognition. Unfortunately that information is frequently biased and one sided. Often candidates don't have equal financial support. That gives some an unfair advantage. Candidates sometimes receive significant contributions because a large number of voters support them. Other times candidates are supported by well-to-do beneficiaries who expect reciprocation once elected.

We don't think that is fair and in the best interest of Manatee County. That is why we plan to provide information on all candidates that is unbiased and fair. For example, we understand that it isn't always easy to remember how elected officials voted on issues a year or two ago. Some incumbent candidates count on our forgetfulness to get reelected. Well, we will help with that. We will be your memory, we will not forget. You will be able to come to this website and see who voted for or against the issues that are important to you . For non-incumbents, we will report how they stand on the the issues. If you have questions we will do our best to get answers.

We are not interested in telling you how to vote. Our goal is to provide true and honest information that will help you decide. That is what this website is all about. We will give all candidates equal treatment. We will report information on all candidates including recognition and honors received, tax information, work experience, education, and anything else that might help you decide how to vote.

We will search public records to find information, good and not so good, on all candidates. If you have information on candidates that is important for voters to know, please share it with us. We will verify any information we receive and report it only if it has been 100% verified true.

Our email address is ourmanateecounty@gmail.com. Please email us if you have questions, comments, or information.

Next Story

Coming soon.

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