Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Tax Resolution Opposed MSD Call for Special Assessment Not Voted on Yet

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Tax Resolution Opposed MSD Call for Special Assessment Not Voted on Yet

Article excerpt

It was only a five-minute filibuster, but fairly effective in postponing a vote on a Municipal Service District resolution asking the county to levy a special tax.

An engineering study to design and determine the feasibility and cost of building a sewer system in the district is not complete. Nevertheless, a resolution intended for the St. Johns County Commission and presented to district trustees for approval at the end of a three-hour meeting Monday reads like the project is a done deal.

"You're telling the county something that is incorrect, a falsehood," Trustee Mack McCuller told Chairwoman Marcy Silkebaken, the author of the resolution.

The resolution stated when the study is finished the district "proposes to move forward with construction of the project as designed."

Some trustees and residents, who have repeatedly been told by trustees Hutch Stevens and John Benedict that the decision to build the sewers would not be made until the engineering is finished, were shocked by the proposed action.

Whether or not to build sewers in the district where septic tanks predominate has been a battle for nearly two years. The extreme cost of the project -- said to be about $9,500 per household excluding hook-up costs -- is the main source of contention. As a quasi-governmental body, the district can tax citizens to provide supplemental services such as extra police protection and trash collection, but in May, the Florida Attorney General's Office said the district could not levy special assessments to pay for the sewer project.

The district generally covers an area that runs from the county line south along Florida A1A to Corona Road, from Florida A1A east to the ocean and south along Ponte Vedra Boulevard to the Guana Preserve.

The resolution was written to ask the County Commission if and how they could access the district to pay for sewers through a Municipal Service Benefit Unit, Silkebaken said. "The other thing I want to ask them to do is to take over the system when we complete the engineering," she said.

Although no formal board vote has been taken to ask the county to issue a special tax, the resolution further states: "the Board of Trustees has determined that the most equitable and appropriate way to pay for the expansion of the sewerage collection system would be through special assessments upon the properties that will be benefited . . ."

"We're just asking that we have a special assessment," said Stevens.

That may have been the intent, but McCuller disagreed with the written result.

This resolution says "we're making a statement to the County Commission that we have determined the most equitable and appropriate way to pay for expansion of the system is through a special assessment," McCuller said. …

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