At the June 4, 2015 meeting of the Board of Supervisors of the Gateway Services Community Development District, the board voted to cap the district’s assessment increase at 11.38% for fiscal 2016.

The Board members stressed at the time that it was only a theoretical increase for budgetary purposes, aimed at providing flexibility, and that there was little chance that spending the whole increase would actually happen.

But now Chairman William Guy has reversed his position and is saying that he plans to utilize the entire assessment increase to pay for the district’s growing needs.

“I’d like to put this thing in perspective if I may. At the last meeting we were required to approve some sort of a budget, and we did with that 11% increase. I understand that some people are not happy with an 11% increase. It does sound high. But it’s only $38 a year, like $3 a month, over what they’re paying now,” explained Guy.

Here’s some additional perspective: In 2004 the GSCDD’s annual budget was about $3,000,000. In 2015 it was $12,700,000.

But Guy is right. $38 is practically nothing to most of us.

So why not make it a $68 increase? Or a $108 increase?

Guy is missing the point. People aren’t upset over $38. They’re upset because they feel underwhelmed with the job the Supervisors have done with the money they’ve had available, and it’s inappropriate for the board to help themselves to even more money through an increase in assessments.

However, Guy insists it’s necessary for the good of the community.

“At this point, I think the bottom line is if we’re gonna do what we think needs to be done … rates are gonna have to increase. I don’t think there’s any question about that. $38 doesn’t sound like a lot of money to me, but I’m sure it might to some people,” said Guy.

Supervisor Pamela Gill, agreed, “I think for the type of community that we have, if we wanna stay current, there’s lots of new communities going up around us. If we want to keep our property values up we have to put some money in to our community. I don’t think $38 or 11% is high.”

Vice-Chairman Margaret Fineberg has no problem helping spend additional money either.

“I have to agree with Pam, to keep the community looking at the level that the residents expect for it to look, to keep the property values up and to keep Gateway looking like a premier community it’s not a lot to ask. Nobody likes their taxes to go up, but they do [go up],” said Fineberg.

Supervisor Rod Senior blasted the assessment increase, saying, “I don’t agree with an 11% increase being broadcast as it was. I wouldn’t have voted for it if I had been involved in the vote. Going forward, trying to be constructive, the biggest challenge that we have is that our fixed asset reserves – in other words, our piggy bank – is draining to $0 for our general fund. And that’s evident on the capital budget that we’re going down to minus $120,000 at the end of next fiscal year and that’s unacceptable. And that’s because we’ve spent a lot, and we still plan to spend a lot.”

Added Senior, “From my standpoint, shoring up reserves is really important … I’m not in favor of doing that through assessments, I’m in favor of doing it by slashing some other costs that we don’t need.”

Later in the meeting, Senior said, “I wouldn’t have agreed. I wouldn’t have voted for that 11 [percent increase] if I had been on the board last meeting. It’s sending the wrong message. $38 isn’t the point. 11% is the point.”

Supervisor Gary Neubauer was not at the meeting, thus he was not able to weigh in on the assessment increase.

With the Supervisors discussing needing to borrow $4 million (although yesterday Guy said he prefers $5 million) on Gateway’s behalf, and the community’s “piggy bank” rapidly shrinking to $0, it seems fiscal management and forecasting our financial needs has not been a strong point for the board.

We could blame past board members, but three out of the five Supervisors have been on the board for at least four years. Therefore, the current members do deserve some of the responsibility for Gateway’s unhealthy fiscal position.

So you’ll have to excuse us for being skeptical of Chairman Guy using his taxing powers to procure additional money from the residents so the Supervisors can spend it, even if it’s only $38.

Editor of the Gateway Sun and owner of restaurant delivery service Florida Food Runner.

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