Lakewood Ranch Community Development Districts met Oct. 17, at Lakewood Ranch Town Hall, for their regular meetings. They voted on and discussed a number of topics, which are summarized below.
The districts expressed disappointment in Manatee County’s re-paving of Lakewood Ranch Boulevard, which started Sept. 25 and ended Sept. 27. Board members expected the paving, which went from the southbound outside lanes of River Club Boulevard to Main Street, to extend farther. District Engineer Mike Kennedy said he would meet with the county to discuss the issue. “I was a bit disappointed in the paving,” Kennedy said. “It was kind of odd.”
Steve Zielinski, chief financial officer for the district, attended a meeting with Coldwell Banker Realtors last month in Sarasota to discuss confusion regarding CDD assessments. Many residents believe that the assessments go away once bonds are paid off, Zielinski said. He expects there’s a miscommunication somewhere between developers, builders, Realtors and customers. Debt-service assessments, which fund bonds, are finite, and their expiration varies depending on the district. Operations and maintenance assessments always remain in place, although they do fluctuate. “It’s hard to believe people are confused,” said Tom Green, a District 2 board member.
The University of Florida has emailed surveys to Lakewood Ranch residents about pond and common-area maintenance practices. Based on the results and recommendations from researchers, Town Hall will adjust its practices accordingly. Anyone who has not received a survey but wants one should call or email Town Hall.
A pre-audit draft of the districts by Purvis, Gray and Company will be complete by mid-February.
The installation of six light poles at Summerfield Park basketball courts will be finished late this week.
Zielinski reported the district ended the fiscal year in better financial shape than he anticipated. The district finished the 2013 fiscal year with $150,000 to $170,000 in its operating fund. The district has no outstanding projects. “You are in a lot better shape than I thought,” Zielinski said. “Now we can see about shifting some of this money into reserves.”
Ryan Heise, district director of operations, said initial work by the district’s new maintenance contractor, Down to Earth, has gone “quite well.” Down to Earth is currently installing plants at major entrances.
Zielinski will present a cost breakdown of the various ways the boards can handle the controversial gate at Balmoral Woods and Lakewood Ranch boulevards at a joint workshop Nov. 6 between CDDS 2, 5 and 6. District 6 Chairman Bob Burstein has promised to delay a decision of the Balmoral gate’s fate until after fiscal year 2014.
The board approved a small amendment to its 2014 fiscal year budget. Zielinski said the change would not impact residents.
Board members approved a fund balance/reserve-levels policy that establishes an annual review of savings and promotes fiscal stability. All of the other districts already have such a policy.
Staff received two bids on the repainting of the Balmoral Gate guardhouse. Heise recommended the higher bid, which will cost $2,300 more, because of staff’s familiarity with the company’s work. The board agreed and told him to move forward.
Town Hall’s new maintenance facility is two weeks away from having its interior work finished, Heise said. When that happens, equipment can be moved inside. Workers are also installing landscaping and irrigation. Staff is working on leasing a half-acre of the property to Down to Earth as a new revenue source. To do that, staff must amend the final site plan to allow a permanent trailer on site. Heise expects it to cost $60,000 to run utilities to the trailer. The project is still under budget. Town Hall will hold a ribbon cutting for the facility Jan. 9.
The IDA board voted to provide money to Town Hall employees to pay for a 17.1% increase in their health insurance premiums for 2014. Money will come from reserves and won’t result in increased assessments to residents. It will be applied to the fiscal year 2014 budget. The higher rate comes after two years of declining costs. Once hired, Town Hall employees receive a $747.50 stipend they can use to select from a multitude of health-care options, which the employer provides. The IDA will add the amount of the 17.1% increase in costs — which equates to $127 per month per employee and about $1,500 per year — to the stipend. The board vowed to reevaluate its benefits package in the future.
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