Letter: Community Development Districts

Letter: Community Development Districts

Jeff Neadle
St Augustine, FL

Dear Editor:

Do you ever feel overwhelmed by all the many different taxing authorities, unsure of the value some taxing authorities provide?

With all our daily responsibilities, few of us have the time to investigate how our money is spent by these agencies. I guess most people think of Community Development Districts in the same way, and just pay what they are assessed each year.

Community Development Districts are typically established by developers to provide basic infrastructure as a way of developing cost-effective communities that are both attractive and pleasant to live in and offer a variety of amenities to their residents, such as recreation areas and public parks.

The extra cost of building such amenities is recovered by the developer by instituting a Community Development Districts assessment which is typically payable for a pre-determined amount of time. In many cases the assessment paid as part of your property taxes.

Let’s examine the how one Community Development District operates. The Julington Creek Plantation Community Development District manages various programs and services. If a private business operated these programs the business would have to break even or make a profit to continue.

The Community Development District does not have to make a profit because it can assess and use the pool of money to cover any losses. A café, child care program, lessons for swimming, tennis, etc. have been (and in some cases continue to be) subsidized by assessments as these programs are not covering all the direct and indirect costs associated with that program.

The advocates for the increased spending at Julington Creek Plantation always point their finger at the new recreation center expansion in 2004, but if one reviews the past minutes and past articles it was marketed to residents as only increasing our assessments by an extra $100 as lower bond fees were to help cover costs.

In 2004, assessments were $489, now they are $830, an actual increase of $341. The management has grown this Community Development District with little regard to keeping past promises.

Many of us understood that there would be additional costs associated with the very nice recreation center that was build. However, we did not expect a staff that costs $2.5 million a year, an increase of 676% since 2006.

There are unnecessary layers of full time management and too many un-busy layers of part time staff, especially during non-peak hours and in the winter months. Salaries now account for about 40% of our $6 million budget and the Board recently approved both salary increases and bonuses.

In this writer’s opinion there are many ways to operate and provide great services to the community but with a significantly lower cost.

There have been a number of recommendations made to reduce costs but some management and Board members seem unwilling to listen. They seem more concerned about looking after their special interests and the staff rather than the interests of the residents.

With this in mind, make sure you research the candidates because these Community Development District assessments can represent a significant portion of your property taxes.

Each Community Development District has Board seats up for election. Before voting, review the candidates and decide which candidates are focused on providing us with great amenities while ensuring the Community Development District operates as efficiently as possible.