On the bottom half of your annual tax bill there is a charge for the Villages Fire District. Now the Board Of County Commissioners wants permission to raise the Villages Fire District charge from the maximum of $125 to a maximum of $360, almost 300 percent. Is this another tax increase due to the Developer’s expansion? If so, why is the Developer not paying for this increase? At the BOCC meeting on Jan. 12, the Developer’s business associates and their employees complained about the possibility that the impact fees would be raised 75 or 150 percent. Now they want to raise the Villages Fire District charge almost 300 percent.
One of the reasons that the Developer and their business associates give as a reason to not raise the impact fees is simply that by doing so, they claim, without any proof, that it would slow growth. If you do some research on impact fees in Florida, you’ll find articles that show that that is not so. Impact fees are to be charged when new construction causes the county additional expenses such as roads, fire stations, additional schools, additional police, etc. This is a one time charge to be paid by whoever is doing the new development. Well, who paid for the expansion of The Villages south of State Road 44? In 2019 the taxpayers of Sumter County were hit with an extraordinary 25.5 percent tax increase. That increase must be paid every year; impact fees, on the other hand, are paid once at the time of new construction. Now they want to increase our fee for the Villages Fire District. I’d call this taxation with poor representation.
In The Villages Daily Sun the other day, there was a beautiful booklet entitled, “Dream A Little Dream The Villages.” In wonderful color, the 90-page booklet shows all The Villages has to offer from, recreation, the squares, dancing under the stars and much more. I must admit, it is really a well done depiction of the lifestyles and amenities we have. Along with that, there are 3 sections entitled, “The Villages Continuing The Dream.” It shows all the projects and expansion planned in the next few years and is very well done. Also on the front page, it talked about the Sumter property sales increase in January, stating that home sales in Sumter County grew 30.1 percent, while sales in Marion County grew only 3.8 percent and how Lake County had a drop of 7.1 percent, all during a pandemic. I don’t quite see how raising impact fees instead of taxes and Fire District charges can possibly slow down the growth of The Villages. And as The Villages grows, the businesses will flock here since they want to be where the population is.
Also in the paper was a story about the Developer willing to voluntarily increase their impact fees 40 percent. In effect, that would make the fee on each new home built $1,360 instead of the current $972. And they want that fee frozen for four years. That is actually an insult to the taxpayers of Sumter County. The impact fee study done in 2019 showed that the actual impact is $2,430. Why shouldn’t that be the actual fee since that is the impact for the additional roads needed to accommodate the expansion. By the way, the impact study done in 2019 only included the costs for new and expanding roads. It did not include all the other costs ie; schools, fire stations police, etc. Most of the other counties in Florida include those costs in their impact fees.
It’s time that the BOCC brought the raising of the impact fees back on the table. It has been over a month since they postponed this issue until July, supposedly to research the issue. The vote to postpone was three to two with the holdover Commissioners and Commissioner Craig Estep voting in favor. Well, how long does it take to research the issue? Even though there are more than 70 revenue streams to generate funds, there are very few that are any real alternative. The easiest and fairest is, of course, raising the impact fees.
It’s time to get off the fence. You can call Commissioner Estep at the county office and/or email him at [email protected] and express your views on the impact fees. He campaigned on the pledge to raise the impact fees to the 100 percent level and to fully roll back the 25.5 percent tax increase. You can kick the can, (impact fees) only so far down the road. Make a decision and show the voters where you stand. It’s the only right thing to do.
Jay Kaplan is a resident of the Village of Sabal Chase.