The board of Carrabelle’s Community Redevelopment Agency on Tuesday approved a proposed budget for the upcoming fiscal year that had some very good news in it.
The accumulated more than $1 million debt the city owed the CRA – for failing over several years, from the CRA’s inception in 1992, to pay into its coffers the ad valorem tax revenue it was rightfully owned – is going to be paid off.
In the upcoming budget, which still needs the blessing of city commissioners, the CRA will get about $118,000 from the city, putting an end to a debt that had been hanging over the city for several years.
“This last payment we will make up for all the monies not paid for over many years,” said Mayor Brenda La Pax. “I’m so tickled about it.”
Of this final payment money, which will go to fund projects specifically within the CRA, $58,000 will come out of $250,000 the city received in CARES Act money, following a suggestion made by Commissioner Tony Millender, that his colleagues endorsed. The other $68,000 will come out of general fund monies.
The CRA is funded by tax incremental funding drawn from taxes paid by properties within its boundaries. After establishing a base year, tax monies that are above and beyond that base amount every year go to the CRA.
In the upcoming fiscal year, the county will send the CRA about $82,000 of its ad valorem millage, $3,000 more than the current year, and the city will give it about $130,000, or roughly $11,000 more than it did in the current fiscal year.
When all these revenue sources are taken into account, the CRA next year will have new revenue to work with of about $330,00, roughly $32,000 more than it had this year.
But that’s not the whole story, since it will also have another $287,000 in unspent monies from the current year, making for a grand total of $617,000 in available revenue. The reason for this substantial rollover is because the CRA was unable to complete several projects it had budgeted for in 2020-21, including facade and site improvement grants, murals and other expenditures.
In addition, consider the fact the city is on the verge of expanding the boundaries of the CRA by a significant amount, setting the stage for additional tax incremental financing in future years.
“It will take a few years before that money is realized,” said La Paz. The new boundaries will go all the way to 12th Street, not just to Marine Street, and take in the south side of the cemetery, and the old school building and old City Hall.
Finally, the life of the CRA, currently set to sunset in 2022, will soon be extended another 30 years by a vote of the city commission.
All this is expected to be completed at the commission’s Sept. 2 and 14 meetings.
La Paz said she foresees spending monies on all the regular projects, as well as planning in future years to address clean-up, demolition of blighted properties and further shoring up of infrastructure, such as the conversion from septic to sewer and the resurfacing of lime rock roads,
On tap this year is to add five military flagpoles, surrounding a 40-feet pole, at Veterans Park, the small bricked island at the fork on U.S. 98. The CRA plans to spend about a third of the overall $45,000 cost in the upcoming years.
It also will continue with its façade grants, which can be awarded to as many as eight businesses $16,000 each to shore up the look of their property, provided the owners come up with their share of the 80/20 match, up to $4,000.
There’s plans to clean up and convert into a parking lot the land at the old public works site, for use for parking by trucks and trailers. There’s money set aside to resurface NW Second Street adjacent to the library, to cover the cost of Christmas decorations and to cover a portion of the cost of revitalizing Marine Street. That two-year project, to rebuild the boardwalk, redo the sidewalks and add fencing, is being funded primarily by a $650,000 Community Development Block Grant, with the CRA kicking in the $25,000 match.
The CRA plans to spend as much as $5,000 on fireworks for Holiday on the Harbor, double what it cost this year, due to a likely spiraling upwards of costs.
The CRA will kick in a total of $2,000 to help fund the C-Quarters Youth Fishing Tournament, the Carrabelle Crawl and the Carrabelle Riverfront Festival.
With a number of smaller projects slated for completion, the CRA has left about $54,800 for wiggle room, in the event there are cost overruns, or new projects spring up.
La Paz said that with the CRA now having to rely entirely on the tax incremental funding, since no city repayment dollars will be forthcoming, she expects that it will be working with about $200,000 to $220,000 each year.
On a related note, the city commission has voted to keep millage unchanged at 9 mills, although it has the option of lowering that if it so desires at its upcoming budget workshops and hearings. The rollback rate, which would keep ad valorem proceeds unchanged, would be 8.384 mills.
The first budget workshop is slated for 1:30 p.m. this Wednesday, Aug. 25 at City Hall.