ITID Unveils Budget For Next Fiscal Year

Residents of The Acreage will see an average 9 percent increase — or about $40 per acre — in their Indian Trail Improvement District assessments next year, with some units seeing an increase as high as $92 per acre.

At a budget workshop Monday, ITID staff said the increase can be attributed to an increased Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office budget, as well as needed drainage improvements, notably along the M-1 Canal.

ITID Finance Director Donald Rinzel said the most current version of the budget will be about $12.97 million, down from $13.11 million last year.

The 2014-15 budget includes an increased administration cost of $78,000.

“That is basically the cost of the increased sheriff’s patrols,” he said.

About $72,000 would pay for 40 hours more in patrols, as well as the cost of insurance for the deputies.

The total administrative budget is about $1.68 million, as proposed.

Rinzel said about $850,000 is being carried over from the current year to pay for maintenance and upgrades to the M-1 Canal.

In the meantime, ITID has decreased its spending on parks and maintenance. The parks budget dropped slightly, from $1.5 million to $1.49 million, while maintenance decreased by about $750,000.

“Our focus is going to be mainly on canals and drainage improvements,” he said. “We will be doing improvements to pump stations, realigning canals and doing everything we can to get water moving through here.”

After Tropical Storm Isaac, which flooded much of The Acreage, the ITID Board of Supervisors asked staff to put a heavy focus on getting increased drainage, even pulling funds from a planned community center at Acreage Community Park to pay for drainage projects.

“The board’s priority was to get a comprehensive drainage plan going and improve drainage throughout the district,” Rinzel said.

Residents will see a small increase on average to their assessments, he said. “The average assessment for this year increased by $40 per resident, which breaks down to a little less than $4 a month,” Rinzel said.

Currently, the average assessment is $425.87 per year, or about $39 per month. Next year, the average assessment will be $465.96.

Unit 14, which is located along the M-1 Canal, between Persimmon Blvd. and 61st Street North, will see an increase of $57.70, an 11.6 percent increase. Residents of the Dellwood area will have the highest percentage increase, about 57 percent or $53.33.

Unit 6, located west of Cheatham Hill Blvd. and south of 50th Street along the M-2 Canal, will see a $92.04 increase, or about 24 percent, the highest dollar increase.

During public comment, resident Patricia Curry said she didn’t understand why some units were getting rate increases when no work was being done for them.

“I’m trying to figure out why my unit is getting an 11 percent rate increase, while another unit is getting a 24 percent rate increase,” she said. “I’m looking at your numbers, and your total budget number is actually less this year than it was last year, and there’s another $850,000 being brought over. Why is my unit getting an 11 percent rate increase when there’s no additional work being done and no paving projects in my unit?”

She said the only major difference was canal improvements. “I’m trying to figure out why my unit is getting a $60 increase, and why some of these other units are getting deep increases,” she said. “I know it’s only $4 a month, but that’s $4 in my pocket.”

Rinzel said there is one project scheduled for Unit 14 — Curry’s unit. “It’s 54th [Street North], east of 130th [Avenue North]. It costs $32,000,” he said. “It’s a maintenance and drainage project.”

The cost is divided among the roughly 600 homes in the unit, Rinzel said.

Resident Alex Larson said it was disingenuous to say the rates are going up only $40 on average. “None of us out here live on just one acre,” she said. “It’s not going to be $40, it’s $80.”

Larson, who lives in the M-2 Canal basin, said that in the storms of 1995 she didn’t flood, but that during Tropical Storm Isaac, she was flooded in.

“We were the last area to drain in that event,” she said. “We had water sitting in our yard for more than a week. It compromised our pads.”

ITID Engineer Jay Foy said that there are problems with drainage in the M-2 Canal basin, some of which could hopefully be fixed.

Rinzel said that is part of the increased canal maintenance budget.

“I can tell you we are looking at every culvert and every canal,” he said. “We have increased the canal maintenance budget for the M-2. We anticipate doing a lot more maintenance on canals, getting them ready [for future storms].”

The maintenance budget decreased by about 12.8 percent, Rinzel said. ITID will be replacing a motor grader, completing maintenance projects on 13 roads and overlaying 2 miles of roads and 3 miles of sidewalks.

At the May 14 ITID board meeting, some supervisors asked staff to consider building a dog park at Downers Park. Rinzel said about $42,000 was being budgeted for park improvements, which included the dog park, fitness equipment replacements at various parks and repairs to heart trails.

“The main focus is the completion of the southern expansion of Acreage Community Park,” Rinzel said.

The majority of residents who attended the meeting were against a dog park.

“I don’t think it’s very well thought out,” Curry said. “I have some concerns as far as liability, in hiring extra staff and making sure all the animals are vaccinated.”

Resident Anne Kuhl said she’d rather see ITID maintain the parks it already has.

“At this time, when we’re trying to improve drainage and keep our rates from going up, I don’t think we need the additional responsibility of a dog park,” she said. “It won’t serve all of our residents. It’s great to build parks; I want a place for our children to play, but I think our money would be better served to replace some things. I’d rather the money go to make our parks the best they can be, rather than add another one.”

Many residents have the equivalent of a dog park in their back yard, Larson said. “There is a lot of liability with dog parks,” she said. “We already live in a dog park. I have enough room in my back yard for my dogs to run wild.”

Turning Downers Park into a dog park will mean families have to go outside their neighborhoods for recreation, resident Betty Argue said.

“My boys go there quite often,” she said. “They like to take their bikes there. I understand you like to see the parks being utilized, but just because those baseball diamonds aren’t being booked does not mean the people in our area don’t go there and use that park. It seems to me every unit in Indian Trail has a park, and if you change that park, we won’t have one in Unit 12. There is value in having a park close to your house.”

She said a dog park would only bring people from other areas to use it.

“A dog park is ridiculous,” she said. “To put a dog park that no one is going to use, except the Minto-ites when they move in, is not fair to taxpayers who pay to put that park in and pay to maintain it.”

ITID Manager Jim Shallman noted that the dog park will be a board decision, not a staff decision.

The public will have two more opportunities to comment on the proposed budget. It will go before the Acreage Landowners’ Association on Monday, June 9 at 7 p.m., before being heard by the ITID Board of Supervisors on Wednesday, June 11.