The Indian Trail Improvement District Board of Supervisors approved a $12.5 million budget for fiscal year 2021-22 on Wednesday, June 9 that would raise the average non-ad valorem assessment about $45 annually per acre to compensate for infrastructure improvements made over the past two years, as well as recent legal costs to cover lawsuits. The current year’s budget is $13.9 million.
ITID Executive Director Burgess Hanson said that the district has made significant infrastructure improvements and addressed fund balances to achieve the board’s expectations while keeping money in for the R2 road improvement project reserve, as well as a 25 percent operating budget reserve to cover for emergencies.
Hanson said revenue, expenditures and fund balances had remained fairly close together over the past 10 years, until 2019 when expenditures started to go up, with only a slight rise in revenue.
“We were taking from the fund balance because the fund balance was much higher, and the whole idea was to not put pressure on the residents by not increasing the assessments,” he said. “What happened in fiscal year 2019 was that the board said we really need to start working on better roads, putting in new culverts — because there’s approximately 470 culverts, and 100 of those are what you’d call not in very good shape.”
The board at that time allocated the existing fund balance into infrastructure improvements. Hanson stressed that the expenditure increases were not for salaries, but for roads, canals and culverts.
Meanwhile, the completion of Acreage Community Park’s southern expansion took a big chunk out of the budget, complicated by a contractor that did not complete the park to the board’s satisfaction. The board dismissed the contractor, which has led to several lawsuits, raising ITID’s legal costs.
Another ongoing legal fight is between ITID and the nearby Seminole Improvement District in Westlake over road connections.
“The Seminole Improvement District would like to access the roads that many of the people in units 1, 3 and 14 paid for, and it would put an inordinate amount of traffic on those roads that has no benefit to those unit owners,” Hanson said. “We do not want that to happen. They want access to 140th Avenue North, and they did not get proper permits, so we are now in a lawsuit with them. These types of lawsuits are nothing that we did intentionally. Unfortunately, lawsuits in today’s world are very expensive.”
Hanson noted that his staff has been reorganized to retain the level of service without hiring new staff members, in order to keep the assessment increase minimal.
“Because of the labor market right now, we’ve not been able to fill certain positions, so we’ve basically frozen eight full-time positions,” he said. “That saves about $750,000. In the upcoming fiscal year, we also are not going to be buying any new equipment or vehicles.”
Hanson said that ITID will be doing more preventative maintenance, allocating $1.35 million for unimproved dirt roads and $687,000 for canal maintenance. He added that some positions are being redefined in order to do more work in-house rather than hire contractors. He also recommended placing more security cameras throughout the parks.
“We’ve been doing that the last two fiscal years,” he said. “We’re going to continue to do that, as well as working with the PBSO so the sergeant and deputies that patrol out here will actually have access to those cameras. They will be able to monitor them as well.”
ITID President Betty Argue noted that the budget presentation this year had been dramatically improved. “We really appreciate that as well,” Argue said.
Supervisor Jennifer Hager made a motion to adopt the proposed budget, which carried 4-1 with Supervisor Keith Jordano dissenting. Jordano felt that the assessments should be held the same.