The Pinecrest election is now underway and voters have until 7:00 pm Tuesday, March 26 to get the ballot that was mailed to them back to the County elections department. Some have already voted while others are still trying to make up their minds.
This election has become very contentious as can be seen by the many social media comments recently posted and the impassioned verbal exchanges taking place among citizens. As the debate continues, the level of hostility has increased as citizens begin to drop to the lowest levels and insult and degrade one another rather than discuss the issues at hand.
Complicated issues are tough to solve and often require patience, hard work, and compromise as well as the sincere efforts of opposing parties to try to seek the best possible solution. While social media may be a good source of information and offers the free expression of thought, it can also be abused and manipulated by those seeking to advance their agenda. Facts stated as facts are often unsubstantiated and uncorroborated, disguised as undisputed data, and then used as tools to confuse and mislead readers while fanning the fires of emotion so that clear thinking is substituted with uncontrolled passions.
It is hoped that when this is vote is over the community can get back together.
At the recent water vote information meetings sponsored by the Village attendees have raised the question of what happens if the water vote fails. They wonder… will we ever be able to get access to County water? Is there another way?
For the upcoming vote, no alternative is offered. This election is a simple yes or no vote as to the issuance of bonds and the associated acceptance or rejection of the specified property tax increase to pay for the bonds.
But for those who want to explore alternatives, information can be found both on the Village web site as well as online searches.
In an April 3, 2017 Village of Pinecrest Memorandum which includes portions from the Pinecrest Master Plan done by C3TS Consultants and updates to that Master Plan report, there is a discussion of financing alternatives. The full report can be found at this link: https://www.pinecrest-fl.gov/home/showdocument?id=9255
One alternative discussed in the Memorandum is the Village Special Assessment. The way it would work, as outlined in the report, is as follows (updated using current market conditions): the cost of improvements at $15,000,000, an annual interest rate of 4% paid over a thirty-year period; the cost per property (for the remaining 739 properties) would be approximately $20,298 lump sum payment or approximately $1,164 per year or $97 per month. This figure can vary depending on changing financial conditions.
To compare that to the to the .23 mill tax increase under the current vote, and using an assessment range of between $700,000 to $1,500,000 for the remaining 739 properties (an online calculator for a specific assessment amount is available at https://www.pinecrest-fl.gov/our-village/pinecrest-water-vote/calculator), the annual tax increase for this range would be between $161 to $345 per year.
Under the Special Assessment District as a financing method, the payment would increase to $1,164 per year. The difference is about is about $800 to $1,000 more per year than with an increased Village-wide tax.
Obviously, no one wants to pay more than they believe they should but by exploring this method it can be seen what this financing alternative is about. It also quantifies the money amount and answers the question of what if?
In addition, the report suggests other financing alternatives such as Federal Loan (WIFIA), State Revolving Fund (SRF), County General Obligation Bond, and County/Village Special Taxing District.
Also, what is critical to know is how many of the 739 property owners actually want County water? To date, no count has been taken by the VOP, and if previous experience with the prior phase is any indication, most will choose to stay with their well. This may create a predicament where millions of dollars has been spent for water lines that remain mostly buried underground and unused.
In that case, the County will not be happy as they will not be receiving revenue from water service, the Village will not be happy as the new debt is not adequately serving the needs of its residents, and property owners will not be happy as their tax dollars will have been mostly wasted.
This vote is important so be sure to vote. But before casting your ballot, make sure you clearly understand what the vote is about.