In August, Manatee County residents will receive their TRIM (Truth In Millage) notice from the Manatee County Property Appraiser. The TRIM notice is an estimate of your annual property taxes and is derived from the budget development process of the various taxing authorities within Manatee County that have the ability to tax or assess property owners based on the value of your home (ad valorem) or based on other assessment methodologies (non-ad valorem).
The TRIM notice is referred to as an “estimate,” because each of the taxing authorities must approve their preliminary budgets in June but will continue to fine-tune their budgets throughout the summer before they are officially adopted sometime before Sept. 15.
The Lakewood Ranch Community Development Districts 1, 2, 4, and 5 (CDDs) fund all of their resident services, operational functions and maintenance activities with non-ad valorem assessments. These services include Lakewood Ranch Town Hall, personnel expenses, common area landscape and irrigation maintenance, residential irrigation water, entry monuments, road/gatehouse/sidewalk maintenance in Districts 2 and 5, stormwater-retention pond maintenance and parks — just to name a few.
As with any governmental budget, the primary goal is to ensure an equivalent or enhanced level of service without increasing assessments to residents. Realistically, however, it is increasingly difficult to develop a budget with no escalation for several years in a row, all the while adding new services or improving current services. Costs for personnel, professional services, equipment and consumables increase for agencies just as they do for individuals.
Like anything else, a community ages, and its infrastructure has a finite lifespan. The custodians of this infrastructure (in this case, the CDDs) must prudently and strategically address the inevitable maintenance requirements.
Believe it or not, Summerfield opened in 1995 — 17 years ago. Edgewater and Country Club was not far behind in 1996 and 1997. As expected, these communities require a higher level of maintenance now than was required 10 years ago, and the annual budgets reflect that need.
The districts are also facing a significant increase in irrigation water costs. In April of this year, the districts were informed that the rates for irrigation water, both common area and residential, were increasing by 50% to fund capital improvements to the irrigation water-delivery system to bring reclaimed water to Lakewood Ranch. Although I am sure that everyone will agree that the use of reclaimed water will benefit the entire community, this unexpected expense increased each of the district budgets by as much as $100,000.
Based on the proposed budgets approved in June, residents in Districts 2 and 4 will see their assessments increase over the previous year’s assessments by 2.5% and 6.1%, respectively, while District 1 residents will experience a slightly higher assessment increase (7.4%) resulting from enhanced security patrols and landscape improvements. Finally, District 5 has a significant budgetary challenge ahead because the board must continue to repair storm drains throughout the district and must also perform immediate road repairs/resurfacing. The estimated increase in District 5 assessments is 15.4%.
The public hearings to adopt the fiscal year 2013 budgets for the Lakewood Ranch Community Development Districts will be held Thursday, Aug. 23, at Lakewood Ranch Town Hall. Anyone who is interested in participating at the hearings is encouraged to attend.
Eva Rey is the executive director for Lakewood Ranch Town Hall.