The Indian Trail Improvement District held an initial presentation of the fiscal year 2018-19 budget at a public hearing Wednesday, May 23, attended by ITID President Betty Argue, District Manager Rob Robinson, Finance Director Bruce Cuningham and some staff members.
The meeting was intended to receive public comment, but no members of the public showed up.
“For those out in TV land… we’re having our annual budget presentation,” Robinson said. “This meeting is for public comment. We’re live streaming, so there may be people looking in.”
The proposed revenue is about $2.7 million more than the 2018 budget of more than $10.6 million, at $13.3 million, prompting Argue to look for ways to cut costs for 2019.
Cuningham said the proposed budget emphasis is on maintaining infrastructure, including roads, canals, swales, culverts and pumps.
“Staff is desiring to maintain those structural items at a sufficient and proper level, so that is what is driving this budget proposal, he said. “The methodology behind this budget is to maintain the fiscal year 2018 budget wherever possible by line item. Some items have been adjusted where it has been clear that the budget was insufficient to cover a particular area. For example, legal expenses, and that line item has been increased for the new year’s proposed budget.”
Wages are proposed to increase by 3 percent. Reserves were being used in past years to lower assessments. Cuningham proposed removal of those adjustments to reflect infrastructure improvements, rather than a means of avoiding an assessment increase.
“We’re considering those reserves that have accumulated to represent a failure to invest in the infrastructure and maintain it,” he said. “Therefore, the infrastructure has not been maintained and is deteriorating. We don’t [want] to get to a point where we have even more severe problems and not have the funds to properly deal with it.”
He said there were a few exceptions where they corrected a negative balance in one unit, and a bond issue for the R2 road bonds that has a low balance.
An executive summary broke down the budget into departments and categories to help define the distribution of funds.
Administration is proposed to receive $2,166,310, where $1,918,763 was allocated in 2018. Parks is proposed for $1,510,571, where $1,396,741 was allocated in 2018. Operations and maintenance for roads is proposed at $6,574,554, where $6,250,613 was allocated in 2018. The M1 Basin is proposed to receive $1,768,228, where $1,757,272 was received in 2018. M1S Bay Hill is proposed to receive $44,000, where it received $40,500 in 2018. The M2 Basin is proposed to receive $340,326, where it received $335,148 in 2018. Aquatic vegetation control is proposed to receive $294,142, where it received $281,865 in 2018. Debt service is proposed to receive $1,971,435, where it received $1,845,884 in 2018.
The total proposed expenditures for the 2019 budget is $14,669,566, compared to $13,826,786 in 2018.
Cuningham pointed out that roads are by far the largest expenditure, with water control and parks also being significant parts of the budget.
Operations and maintenance of roads takes up 45 percent of the proposed budget, water control takes up 17 percent, administration takes 15 percent, debt takes 14 percent and parks takes nine percent.
Robinson pointed out that since there were no residents attending the meeting, there would be no public comment, but he outlined the executive summary of how staff organized the budget.
“The board of supervisors provides staff direction priorities on major budget goals for the upcoming fiscal year,” he said. “Taking a look at the previous fiscal year determined what accounts have surpluses and shortfalls. Budget negotiations with departments have been finalized with some redistribution… for accurate disbursement of funds.”
ITID staff proposed a 20-year culvert replacement plan to bring them up to date.
“Culvert [use is] far exceeding life expectancy,” Robinson said. “Most are dated to the 1980s. Pipe extensions were added in the mid-1990s for road widening safety. Recent failures at these joints are leading to emergency repairs, increased procurement costs and logistical issues for maintenance.”
Hurricane Irma proved a lack of accessible easements to remove storm debris and provide access to inspect waterways. “Now things will have to be restored for routine maintenance and inspection,” he said.
Swale drainage has degenerated to the point that many areas do not drain to canals but onto property.
“It all starts here,” Cuningham said. “Without effective means to remove water from properties and roadways, the system will not work as designed. Proper swales and enhanced storage capacities can provide a faster way to remove water during rain events. We can all attest to that with the recent rains that we’ve had.”
Many ITID roadways are in need of resurfacing. “The budget continues to set funds aside to use for pavement overlays, millings and repairs,” Cuningham said.
Canal improvements in the basins will be useless without getting water out, he said, explaining that maintenance, repair and replacement of pumps, gates and telemetry is critical in moving water.
The park system needs replacement of playground equipment for child safety, and that is proposed for the coming year.
Argue said she had asked for specific project lists, which would be available for discussion at the board’s meeting in June.
“We’re finalizing that with crew chiefs based on the recent rain events that we’ve had where we’re refocusing our efforts to get the swales working properly,” Robinson said. “A majority of our attention will be focused this coming year on swale improvements, as well as culverts.”
Argue pointed out that what the board adopts in June would be the maximum amount of the budget, although the board can later adopt a lower assessment rate.
“One of the things that was a consensus of the board was… that we were concerned about the level of increase in some of the units,” she said. “We wanted to take a look at that and see what the reason for that is. Hopefully, we can tighten this up a little bit and it won’t be such a shock for everyone.”
Robinson said he had met with some of the board members one-on-one, and from meeting with some residents at the recent open house, they would like to see some of the numbers lower.