The Loxahatchee Groves Town Council last week approved direction to the town manager to develop a special assessment policy for road improvements.
Town Manager Bill Underwood said a special assessment policy would help generate resources to take care of roads that are in various stages of needing repair and maintenance.
The town has been hamstrung by a lack of funds to keep up the roads properly, and has been further saddled by the inheritance of roads from the Loxahatchee Groves Water Control District.
The plan would be based on a procurement policy created in 2008 by the council to provide public services to the owners of private property who will receive a benefit from the services provided.
“We can do a lot of things,” Underwood said. “The assessment program is for public services, public works projects, and it adds to or extends the capability of that service, whether it’s roads, drainage, whatever it is we’re going to do that increases safety, accessibility or the value of the properties involved.”
The program can provide construction, rehabilitation, repair, maintenance, paving, repaving, widening, guttering or draining of streets, alleys and sidewalks.
“We can put together an assessment program that includes the drainage that the council approved earlier and tie that in with road improvements,” Underwood said, explaining that the council would have to approve an intent resolution that includes specific criteria.
“We have to design the nature of the work, that is, the drainage and the roads we’re going to improve,” he said. “We’re going to have to identify the pro-rated benefit, the cost of the assessments, so someone has to come up with an estimated cost, and then the manner in which we’re going to do the assessments, whether you’re going to do frontage, square footage, acres, etc.”
The council would also have to determine how the assessments would be paid, what part of the assessment the town would pick up and whether it would come from general assessments, grants or other sources.
The town would also have to describe the lands on which the special assessment is going to be levied, along with the estimated cost.
“This is not a fast and furious process, because just to get the answers to all of these things, it’s going to require some work,” he said.
Town Attorney Michael Cirullo said he will have an intent resolution prepared for the council’s Dec. 5 meeting in order for the council to levy the assessment in 2018.
“You have to do the intent resolution in December to tell the property appraiser you are going to do that next year,” Cirullo said. “You can discuss this if you like in conjunction with that at the next meeting, but this process will require some time. If you want to give us the direction to start moving forward with the review of it, the town manager can start looking at getting what it would take to get the answers to these things in order to put something together for you to consider, maybe in January.”
The assessment bills would be mailed to recipients of the special assessment for the remaining fiscal year and would show up on the tax bill after that.
He added that the town would have to show special benefit for the residents paying the assessment.
Mayor Dave Browning asked whether the assessment would raise the $500,000 needed for rock to bring roads up to grade, and Cirullo explained that it would establish a funding mechanism.
“Maybe your culverts or maybe your additional funding coming to supplement the funds that you already have, but you want to come up with an overall project, overall idea of it, because when you’ve got a special assessment, you have to deliver what you’re collecting it on, pursuant to a plan of action,” Cirullo said. “It assures that some people don’t pay and get nothing.”
Cirullo said it would take a lot of work to develop a plan that includes road improvements, culverts and road maintenance.
Underwood noted that the town has been putting rock down on the roads for the past 18 months, except at times he told the council it didn’t have the money.
“I’m trying to find a mechanism that we can use, but we would need instruction to carry forward and get those answers for you so that we could do it and get it in place, and regardless of how you do it, whether it’s on the tax bill or start it midyear, these answers have to be brought forward,” he said, explaining that it would be a non-ad valorem assessment.
Cirullo said the assessment would be complicated, and a simple division of assessments by acreage would not be acceptable.
Underwood said Cirullo had found a possible consultant that might be able to help with a methodology that could withstand court challenges, if any, and staff could prepare a request for qualifications if the council wished.
Vice Mayor Ron Jarriel said he would like to know the cost to the town. “The other problem I have is the water control district,” Jarriel said. “We’re still paying assessments to them for roads.”
Councilman Todd McLendon made a motion to take all actions necessary to move forward with the proposal, which carried 5-0.
Cirullo said that a plan of action would be prepared for the council’s next meeting.