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The Villages
Friday, January 27, 2023

Tallahassee slaps local officials in the face with HB337

Robert Nyce
Robert Nyce

The Florida Legislature has just slapped every local official in the face! House Bill 337 restricts the ability of local elected officials from doing their job! Was there any debate or input from locals government associations or is this a dictate from big brother in Tallahassee?

We are not talking about the maintenance of these new facilities once built. We are talking about the actual cost of creating the new roads, sewers, water, police, fire etc. Once built, everyone should and will pay their fair share to maintain these facilities through property taxes since everyone will use the new facilities.

Just to get this straight, the state requires counties, towns and cities to provide services to their residents.  They require comprehensive plans to predict growth. The state advertises and promotes what a great place Florida is to live and work. This results in exponential growth for Florida.This growth requires new roads, new services, water and sewer facilities etc. most of which are funded by local communities.

Naturally the State of Florida is going to pay for all of this new infrastructure – right?  Not on your life they don’t want to raise taxes because that would be contrary to their appeal for new residents to come.  Well then who should pay?  It falls on local communities. These local elected officials can levy impact fees, based upon the actual cost of what they must provide – call it a fee for service.  You need more parks, local roads, fire stations, police stations, etc. they cost something.  That is what impact fees pay for. If impact fees are limited then who pays for the shortfall and how?  Normally, when new development is proposed, engineers are consulted to estimate the additional facilities necessary to accommodate the new growth in population or the effects of any new business will have on roads, bridges, water & sewer services etc.

Impact fees are periodically reviewed and re-set to ensure there is adequate reserves and operating funds to build all these necessary facilities.

No one can disagree that the actual and projected growth in Florida is beyond comprehension. The mass exodus from the north and high tax state taxes there is tremendous and it will only get more demanding not less. Do you believe these new residents will not want or need new services such as schools, roads, bridges, hospitals, police, fire etc., the only question is who pays and how?

There are only two possibilities:  raise impact fees to reflect the actual cost of these new facilities when needed, or have local government, cities, towns and counties build and fund whatever cannot be paid for by impact fees. Certainly, impact fee increases should be justified but limiting them arbitrarily will serve only to force local officials to raise taxes – it is the only option.

While continuing to promote Florida, the State Legislature, in all of its wisdom, has passed a bill that does the following:

  1. Ignores the actual costs of new development by setting arbitrary and complicated rules to limit increases.
  2. Tells local officials that they are responsible to pay for and build these necessary facilities but that they are going to limit your ability to get that money from developers.
  3. We don’t care about how much it actually costs to build, you are limited in how much you can raise in impact fees to what we say you can do.
  4. In case you anticipated what we were going to do to limit you in doing your job, these rules are retroactive to Jan. 1, 2021.
  5. We also will not be providing any funding to help pay for these new required facilities.

The entire issue of impact fess was reduced to one question – who has the power to regulate and set impact fees? The Florida State Legislature gave that responsibility to local officials who must build and pay for the facilities. But now, when the need is greatest, they changed their mind – why?

Simply said, the State Legislature, passed a bill with the following intention – limit impact fee increase regardless of the actual cost or need. Instead, we insist that you put those costs on local taxpayers. You might argue that current residents will benefit in some small way from new growth. But the truth is, not so much!  The increased demand for services is driven almost entirely from new residents and growth.

The real question we should be asking is why?  Why did the legislature limit impact fee growth?  Keep in mind, these limits are completely contrived and not based upon estimated increases in construction materials or anything other factual data.  Lumber is already going through the roof.  Did anyone ask, how will local officials raise this money and how can they possibly revise impact fees quickly enough to keep up with the growth in need and prices while facing these restrictions.

The answer is simple – the Legislature does not care! They actually believe they are protecting Florida’s taxpayers by forcing them to pay higher local taxes. A simple course in economics would easily explain that if you build something, it costs something and someone has to pay for it – anyone except the Florida Legislature!

So, come on down!  Move to Florida the country’s friendliest state.  We want you here.  We need you here.  And, we will not charge you for the demand you create to our services.  The faster you come the better.  And, to ensure you are not discouraged, we will prevent those local communities where you move from putting the cost on you. 

What a concept! Promote Florida as a great place to live and work. Invite residents from all over the USA to come here to live and work.  Oh, but wait, that will require many new homes, police, water, sewer systems, roads (state, county and local).  But that is not the State’s problem those issues are local to the county, towns and cities who must build the facilities to serve the new residents.

This will be the biggest bait and switch fraud ever implemented.  A transfer of cost from those new residents moving to Florida to the existing taxpayers who currently reside here. Not only does the state continue to brag about Florida’s low tax structure, the Legislators get to point the finger at local officials who must raise taxes to pay for their bragging rights. Then they will simply claim the local officials have mismanaged their budgets when property taxes go up to pay for items that should have been paid for by impact fees.

What really is happening here? State Legislators want Florida to grow at unprecedented rates. State Legislators want to continue to advertise low taxes, no personal or corporate income tax and no estate taxes.  State Legislators want to be able to tell their developer friends back home, including some of their employers, look what we have done for you!

Brace yourself Florida, the local taxpayers have just been had.  Your State Legislature sent you a love note. We are not paying for all this growth that we promote. That is your problem!  We will not send you any money to help. Nor will we allow you to charge our friends, the developers operating in Florida, to help pay for it by charging their customers – the new residents.

Remember when it was considered OK for local elected officials to simply float a bond to pay for new infrastructure driven by growth?  How did that work out in the past?  The Florida State Legislature liked that method so they re-authorized it by limiting local officials from charging their friends. Put it on the local taxpayers they said and then they put it in law and now the governor is going to put his stamp of approval on the entire package. To add insult to injury – RETROACTIVE TO JANUARY 1, 2021.

Maybe I am getting a bit angry as I age. This makes no sense and I have seen very little opposition at the state level to this trickery.  Wake up Florida residents, you are about to be handed the largest tax increase in the state’s history.  If impact fees are limited and not allowed to cover ALL OF THE COST of new development there is only one alternative – everybody else pays! My two cents.

Robert Nyce is a resident of the Village of El Cortez.

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