Your taxes are going up.

It appears as though most households in Gateway will be looking at a $60 to $70 assessment increase that will be paid to the Gateway Services District for fiscal year 2017.

In the fourth version of the FY2017 budget, the proposed increase is $66.44 (17.88%) but that number could change as the final details are worked out. That would mean most assessments will increase from $371.67 to $438.11 next year.

While the increase is substantial, it’s hardly a surprise.

On August 6, 2015 the Board of Supervisors approved a 10.91% increase for FY2016. At the time, Supervisor Gary Neubauer said, “Frankly, in the upcoming years, I tremble to think of all these things that haven’t been maintained for 25 years. I tremble to think what the necessity is going to be to increase. So at this time I think we’re focusing on something that, yes [10.91% increase] is relevant, but in the big picture – just wait ’til you see what’s next, folks.”

What’s next, for FY2017 at least, is the nearly 18% increase. Neubauer is probably right that assessments will be raised sharply for years to come.

The primary culprit will be the Lake Bank Restoration Project, for which the district just borrowed $5 million. That project is estimated to cost between $15 to $20 million when it’s all said and done to correct the eroding pond banks in Gateway. However, if water quality is also addressed as part of the project, it could end up costing residents $30 million or more.

A second major issue that is currently getting zero attention at district meetings is the problem that Neubauer alluded to: the deteriorating infrastructure in Gateway.

Of course, all infrastructures deteriorate over time. That’s normal. But the consensus is that not enough has been done, and little money has been budgeted, to properly maintain and make upgrades to the water utility that the GSCDD operates.

These are things many communities budget for years in advance so when the time comes there’s no financial shock to the residents. For decades in Gateway, home owners have enjoyed lower assessments because insufficient financial planning for the lakes and infrastructure was taken in to account.

These 11% and 18% yearly increases are now necessary to begin to address the issues.

The final FY2017 budget will likely be approved next month by the board.

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

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