ELECTION CYCLES ARE ALWAYS critical to the future of our county, state, and nation. In the current election season, it is now more important than ever that we not only show up to the polls but are diligent in our efforts to educate ourselves on the candidates, issues, and all that is ultimately at stake.
Presently, Polk County businesses and citizens are faced with yet another frustrating financial challenge and bureaucratic layer resulting from the unincorporated Polk Stormwater Assessment Fee. This assessment is the result of an unfunded State/Federal Stormwater Permit mandate that demands major expenditures from the county to clean up and maintain its drainage system. Reportedly, costs for all improvements and programs under the permit are estimated at $100 million over the next 20 years. As any farmer or rancher will tell you, protecting our water bodies is essential. Unfortunately, related governmental mandates often create impractical and expensive requirements disguised as “necessary solutions.”
Representatives from your Polk County Farm Bureau and the Polk County Cattlemen’s Association recently met with County staff regarding the assessment and, more specifically, addressed how it will affect agriculturally zoned landowners. UNDER F.S. 193.461, BONA FIDE AGRICULTURAL OPERATIONS ARE EXEMPT FROM THE ASSESSMENT IF THE OPERATION PROVIDES DOCUMENTATION OF BMP IMPLEMENTATION, A NPDES PERMIT, OR ENVIRONMENTAL PERMIT. If BMPs are not currently documented, a Notice of Intent will suffice as documentation for the first year.
In addition, MITIGATION CREDITS FOR GENERAL PARCELS (commercial, etc.) are available under certain conditions. For more information on who qualifies and to access the Agricultural Exemption/Mitigation Credit Application, visit the county website at www.polk-county.net or call the Department of Parks and Natural Resources at 863-534-7377.
OF IMMEDIATE CONCERN TO AGRICULTURAL LANDOWNERS IS THE CHALLENGING TIMELINE FOR IMPLEMENTATION OF THE EXEMPTION/ MITIGATION PROCESS:
• AUGUST 11, 2012 – Postcards mailed to property owners notifying of the Ag Exemption/Mitigation Application
• AUGUST 20, 2012 – TRIM notices mailed from Property Appraiser (SHOWING MAXIMUM POSSIBLE ASSESSMENT FEE)
• AUGUST 20, 2012 – Online exemption/mitigation credit application available on County website
• SEPTEMBER 13, 2012 (6 P.M.) – Board of County Commissioners: Public Hearing on County Budget and setting of Stormwater Assessment Fee Rate
• SEPTEMBER 20, 2012 – Final Tax Roll due to Tax Collector’s Office
• OCTOBER 1, 2012 – DEADLINE FOR AG PROPERTY OWNERS TO SUBMIT APPLICATION AND DOCUMENTATION IN ORDER TO BE CONSIDERED FOR EXEMPTION/MITIGATION CREDIT THIS YEAR. (Applications received between September 14 and October 1 will require rebate processing.)
Finally, property owners should analyze the cost-to-benefit ratio for the assessment fee rate vs. the cost of administration of exemption/credit documentation. The fee is based on the area of impervious surface on each parcel. In parcels with very small areas of impervious surface, it may make more sense to just pay the assessment and avoid the additional time and expense of submitting documents.
Again, with ultimate costs estimated at around $100 million to implement the requirements of the permit, this could very possibly be just an “initial” assessment. PCFB, therefore, will keep a persistent watch and remain alert to county progress and expenditures along these lines. Contact PCFB with any general questions or comments by calling Carole McKenzie at 863-533-0561, Ext. 111 or email email@example.com. Property specific questions should be addressed to the County Department of Parks and Natural Resources at 863-534-7377.
• MATT WARREN, Env. Specialist II, FDACS, Office 863-773-2164, Cell 863-448-3354
• JEMY HINTON, UF/IFAS Implementation Coordinator, 813-633-4151
Please remember our 70th Annual Membership Meeting and Political Forum coming up October 11 beginning at 5 p.m. at the W.H. Stuart Center in Bartow. We look forward to seeing you there.
LESLIE W. DUNSON, III
President, Polk County Farm Bureau