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Marden: Springs County Viability Becoming Clearer

OPINION

BY TIM MARDEN

At the December 6th opening of our Welcome Center in High Springs, Representative Chuck Clemons stated he would file a bill in the 2022 Florida Legislative session to create Springs County, as long as the numbers work out. Like Representative Clemons, the public has zero interest in creating another one or two subsidized counties, and it doesn’t look like that will happen.

Recently, with the assistance of a professional accounting service specializing in government accounting, we have been compiling and comparing data. Our data has been sourced from the Florida Department of Revenue, the National Association of Counties, the Florida League of Cities, public data from all 67 counties, and the Alachua County Property Appraiser.  

The 2020-2021 Alachua County budget, excluding the $360M School Board budget, is around $489M. This is 22% higher than 3 years ago despite nearly flat population growth. The county’s population is currently around 270,000. Dividing by population in the proposed new counties, Springs County could have a budget of $198M -$216M for an estimated 110,000 to 120,000 people.  

According to a recent Alachua County Property Appraiser report, Alachua County has a current taxable value totaling just over $30B. Springs County’s taxable value would account for approximately $17B of that, using State Road 121 as the proposed eastern border. The property remaining in Alachua County would have a taxable value of $13B. This is great news.

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Data from all counties shows that there are multiple viable counties that are smaller. Alachua County ranks 29th in total budget. 38 counties have smaller budgets. 29 counties in Florida are considered subsidized. Neither a new Springs County nor a remaining Alachua County would fall into the latter category. 31 counties have budgets below the $200M watermark. 19 counties have a smaller per capita expenditure than the current Alachua County. 

More research is needed. But early indications are clear: both counties should be able to continue with a sense of financial security after the stated goal of a October 1, 2025, effective date.  2025 would symbolically align with the 100-year anniversary of when Gilchrist County was created – the last time a new county was created in Florida.

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