It’s a complicated story, but the gist of it is the Apalachicola Community Redevelopment Agency has expired, and now if resurrected, will have to start over based on a new tax base.
In a report to city commissioners, Joshua Pasqualone, an associate attorney standing in for City Attorney Dan Hartman, reported the firm’s decision that the city’s CRA plan, originally adopted March 1989, had expired Sept. 30, 2019 after its initial term of 30 years had ended.
This now means that the city will have to consider starting it over, and establishing a new base year upon which all the subsequent tax-increment financing (TIF) is based. TIF financing means that the designated CRA area, which includes much of downtown and the 98 corridor and the heart of the business district on the Hill, receives the difference between the property tax monies of the base year, and the growth each year.
The attorney said he planned to have the city‘s auditors advise on what steps need to be taken to wind up the CRA. Commissioner Donna Duncan asked that he also advise the city on what steps need to be taken to form a new CRA.
The attorney said that any project committed by the CRA, which includes a $89,000 earmark for the roof on the Holy Family Senior Center, will still be funded. But any projects, such as redevelopment of the Sixth Street Park, that have not been committed will not be funded.
Commissioner Despina George, an accountant by profession, has been addressing the potential problems with the 30-year time limit on the original legislation.
She provided her fellow commissioners with a preliminary estimate of the amounts that would need to be returned to the city and county, which would require a budget amendment for the city’s 2021-22 fiscal year. Roughly speaking, this would mean that the entire $362,000 in the CRA coffers now would have to be given back to the county and city. She estimated that this would mean the county would get about $248,000 and the city about $114,000, of which more than half has already been committed to the Holy Family roof,
“We need to acknowledge that the CRA has never been properly administered in accordance with the Florida statutes,. and before we move ahead and discuss the possibility of forming a new CRA, we need to be clear as to how we avoid repeating the city’s past mistakes,” she said.
“To form a new CRA we have to find a need,” said George. “Can we really say that the entire CRA, especially the downtown, is a blighted area? All the CRA money would have to be spent within the district. We have to consider the drain this would have on city projects elsewhere.”