Sometimes I feel like a broken record with this “planning for our future” headline, but it underscores this critical point in time for Winter Haven. So many positives things are happening in and around our area with business expansion, business recruitment, increased visitation and more. In a recent blog post I mentioned a population study conducted by the Florida Chamber that explains that in the next 5 years we will see a population increase in Polk County of over 59,000 people and in the next 15 years we will see an increase of 165,000. With this increase in population comes the needs for schools, police officers, infrastructure improvements, traffic planning and protecting/improving our assets and the quality of life of Winter Havenites.
Over the last year the City of Winter Haven staff and Commissioners have been discussing the possibility of a $25 million bond to complete numerous projects. The initial list of projects came out of several sources – feedback and requests from the community over the last decade, the original visioning process in the early 2000’s, the Aspire Winter Haven visioning process of 2013, and facilities, arts and recreational assets that are at capacity for events, children’s sports, families, etc.
This week the city launched an online survey to get feedback from the community on some of the projects listed (closes April 10). This survey is unscientific, but is an opportunity for the public to give their opinion about the current list of projects, offer feedback on other projects they may be interested in and offer insight on how to pay for the bond debt service.
To add some additional clarification to the survey, the commissioners are currently considering two options: Increasing ad valorem (property tax) or a fire assessment fee. They also give you the opportunity to provide your own suggestions for an additional revenue stream.
The current ad valorem rate is 5.79 mills. To give you a frame of reference the following is what the adv valorem rates have been for the last decade:
For the current bond discussion, the city explains the increase this way, “While exact numbers will vary, in theory, a $25 Million Bond equates to 1.02 mills. For a home valued at $100,000 with a $50,000 homestead exemption and a taxable value of $50,000, this would equate to about $50 per year (or about $1 a week) in ad valorem (property) taxes.”
The Fire Assessment fee is determined based on many factors and can be implemented using several different formulas. The City should be receiving a report from a consultant reviewing varying methods and the impact of those methods shortly to help determine the viability of such a method. What the Fire Assessment fee does do is broaden the base of revenue by allowing the fees to be applied to entities that are exempt from property tax. Until we see the results of the survey and become more familiar with the varying options, I am not comfortable summarizing any “lower or higher” cost with this compared to ad valorem increases. It could vary greatly both from individual homeowners to business owners.
As shared in an earlier post, it has been over a decade since the City made any large scale investments. Share your thoughts on this potential bond by clicking here to take the survey.