Every level of government is on forced austerity as the economic recovery stumbles under the frightening federal debt load and regulatory uncertainty.
That has forced creativity and painful cuts throughout local and state governments. While hard on employees who have lost their jobs, it is good for government to be forced to get leaner. (If only the feds could be forced, we’d all be a lot better off.)
The same holds true for the Lakewood Ranch Inter-District Authority, which comprises representatives from each Ranch Community Development District and makes decisions on issues that affect all CDDs. It has trimmed its budget while in the unenviable position of being between executive directors. The 2.54% cut of $87,000 put the budget at $3.42 million.
The budget has been balanced, with no assessment increases for homeowners and includes one additional staff member.
But it wasn’t magic: It came from taking $230,000 from the fund carryover surpluses — a $60,000 increase from last year’s $170,000 taken from surpluses. That is the largest amount ever used from the fund surplus to balance an IDA budget.
As Finance Director Steve Zielinski told the East County Observer after last week’s meeting approving the budget: “We will not be able to sustain that going forward.”
In other words, if revenues do not increase from more assessments, the IDA will not be able to rely on taking money from surplus funds and will be required to make more cutbacks in personnel and services.
The Ranch is governed at this point by five CDDs, each having a board of supervisors. The CDDs levy assessments to cover items such as landscaping, irrigation and lights.
The IDA is the over-arching structure run by one representative from each of the CDDs and has a small staff at Town Hall.
The supervisors and staff did the right thing, keeping the assessments and fees in line and freezing pay for Town Hall and other employees for next year. Every government has been forced to cut back. Turning to increasing revenues would undercut Lakewood Ranch growth and be understandably unpopular with residents.
Click here to view a PDF of the IDA budget.