Impact fees, not maintenance fees

County Commissioner Jimmie T. Smith, District 3At a previous commission meeting, we addressed the issue of Impact Fees.

The majority of people who came before the board had issues of maintenance and even our own presentation suggested we use Impact Fees for debt, to pay for previous projects not specifically correlated to what impact fees are supposed to be used for, which is IMPACT.

If a new development goes in the development could very well lead to a need to quickly expand capacity on a road; that is impact.  If a major change to an intersection happens because of a change due to business growth; that would be impact.

Yet, in the past, we didn’t take specific impact fees collected during that time and focus them on the specific growth, we used it as new revenue. Even with that, the projects we have now are because of the natural growth of infill in current communities, such as the need to expand Croft Avenue and other roads and again this is natural growth and not the intended projects for Impact Fees.

So we need to focus on the fact that the drive to lift the moratorium on Impact Fees could create the same issues as before, where we don’t collect the Impact Fees in a clear and concise fashion but simply put more funds into our county coffers.

The call for Impact Fees to be reestablished is about revenue. So let’s talk revenue.

Since the moratorium on Impact Fees, we put more money into roads, we now have money in reserves so much so that we have an improved bond rating, and those millions no longer need to go to reserves and all while our budget has grown by $20,000,000 in just four years.

We should be keeping the moratorium on Impact Fees, because it has worked in bringing us more business and, contrary to some opinions, it is actually creating new revenue and NOT creating new cost on our infrastructure. Just ask yourself, the three hundred plus homes built last year, created what impact?

At this time business is supposedly slipping in without covering the costof alleged needed improvement.

When it comes to roads there have been nothing but old projects that are being paid for and no activity on the agenda for needed improvement due to our growth.

Not only that; the one improvement that we have had is more taxable values, or to think of it in a different light, each company that “slips in” pays more in tax than any average resident ever will and creates more long-term revenue.

Instead of putting a drain on our resources, we are actually bringing in new and fresh money to pay for improving our infrastructure.

Look at all the new business and where they are going in, is it county roads? No it’s Highways 44, 41 and 19 for the most part and these are all state roads that will, for the majority, be state funded if any improvement is needed.

I challenge you to drive around and see for yourself, the amount of growth of business on county roads is minimal, and well then you may ask yourself; could it be the residential growth on roads then?

Actually, the roads that are the worst in the county are in the district I represent, the Citrus Springs area and there you have over 25 percent of the county’s roads. You also have a community that is putting in $300,000 of additional monies into the road repaving funds over and above the already collected and committed tax dollars.

This community would only benefit from more people living on its roads and would not be an impact because the roads have to be repaved anyway, regardless of whether anyone lives on them or not and any additional growth adds to the increased Ad Valorem that helps the entire county.

You may think it is the need to expand the county roads because of the traffic issues on roads like County Road 491, but this was an issue even as our population was in decline and the expansion has been planned as part of natural growth and not a new development.

Again, the impact fees should not be looked at as revenue to pay past debt, it should not be looked at for the issue of maintenance and it should not be looked at to being brought back until we look at the issue of impact in the literal sense or we will end up creating the same issue that we had before, where we end up having to pay them back as we did in the past.

Instead, we should do like the Chronicle said during the last building cycle, we should thank our new neighbors with milk and cookies (their editorial), their new tax dollars are going to pay for your already existing infrastructure which keeps your taxes lower and that is without Impact Fees.

Even though we recently brought back transportation impact fees we will in the near future have a meeting about the need for Impact Fees to be reestablished in other areas, as well as having the discussion about new growth that is starting to happen because of the moratorium.

I look forward to asking the questions about impact, natural growth rates, projects or demands on the various entities that can be shown to be because of an impact.

This of course is just one person’s opinion and my understanding of Impact and the difference between that and growth; this is why I will continue my support to keep the moratorium in place.

Jimmie T Smith,
Citrus County Commissioner
District 3