Thursday, February 25, 2021
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The Villages

Sumter County to pay $50 million for regional roads in Southern Oaks

As commissioners mull road impact fee increases, Sumter County faces a steep cost for regional roads over the next decade, largely due to the Villages of Southern Oaks, which eventually will extend south of State Road 44 to the community of Center Hill.

The county will pay more than $50 million for regional roads in Southern Oaks. The county reimburses The Villages for the cost of roads under road agreements with amounts due five years after construction costs are incurred.

The good news is that the cost for many of the road projects is coming in below estimates and the county has unspent funds from 2020. The bad news is that revenue from gas taxes and current road impact fees is not enough to pay for the roads without dipping into the general fund and other money sources.

Property taxes provide revenue for the general fund and using this money for roads could lead to higher taxes such as the 25 percent tax-rate increase in 2019, which was blamed in part on road construction costs. Commissioners, however, pledged last year not to increase the property tax rate for five years.

They will consider a budget amendment at their meeting Tuesday that dips into alternative revenue sources for road costs to take pressure off the general fund.

The amendment would use about $10 million in unspent money from the general fund and secondary trust fund, used for capital projects, to pay for road resurfacing and to create a reserve fund for road projects.

“This means less impact on general fund revenue over the next several years,” said County Chairman Garry Breeden.

Major road projects include the Bexley bridge over the Florida Turnpike, which will connect Bexley and Corbin Trail; Corbin Trail from the bridge to County Road 470; realignment and widening of CR 470 in front of the Coleman federal prison; and three unnamed roads south of CR 470. Recent projects include Meggison Road and Marsh Bend Trail.

At a special meeting earlier this week, commissioners voted 4-1 to reject an offer from The Villages to pay 40 percent higher road impact fees because the majority thought the amount was too low. They asked County Administrator Bradley Arnold to prepare an analysis that could set the stage for an impact fee hike.

Impact fees are one-time charges, not a continuing tax, for new development or expansion. In 2019, many people said the county should raise impact fees on The Villages projects instead of increasing property taxes. Three incumbent commissioners were ousted in last year’s elections over this issue.

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