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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.

  • How are you going to deal with the need for all the new infrastructure – courthouse, jail, etc you will need? What happens if West Gainesville doesn’t want to play ball? They may like the services they are getting. You won’t be getting rid of GRU. Plus, the small cities think they may control the new County, but they would be selling their soul to the west part of the new county for the financial base and probably the political base. I live in the area you want to truncate and I certainly have no interest in being in Springs County.

    • Part of the infrastructure that could be avoided would be a new jail.
      It would actually solve two divisive issues: 1) liberals don’t want anyone locked up. Just catch and release…any good fisherman can do that. 2) conservatives don’t like overspending. No jail, no construction costs.

    • “Charles” the infrastructure in Springs becomes Springs County’s. The tax payers already paid for it. Per State Constitution. The schools, roads, poles, pipes…all becomes SC. We can also contract jail services, as done in other places, until such an ability to build is reached. The County Board can meet in the chambers of the Cities we suspect, increasing accountability and interaction of the Board with constituents. As a County we may very well have the right to assert who provides utilities. Besides until the State says so, there is no guarantee western Gainesville would be in Springs County. And Bob if people liked the services then there wouldn’t be any issue letting them have a voice even if they live out of the City now would they. BTW this is me and my profile. I do not hide behind any fake names.

      • No fake profile here. Just a question of if the infrastructure in the part of Alachua County that would be severed would meet the state requirements. Are there sufficient schools? You would need an admin building for the schools and would have to duplicate services that one county is providing now. Like it or not, there will be infrastructure that has to be built or provided for. The County would lose the Library District and the Childrens Trust unless the Legislature turned them into two county districts. Of course then that adds to the millage rate. If Gainesville Contracts because of the division, then the County would be responsible for that infrastructure. It will be interesting to see what the proposal is. IMO, I just see a lot of building over the first few years of a new county and a lot of bonding to be able to do it.

        • Bob do you think I would go there randomly? So now you are lying too. You’re a County Atty for goodness sake. Have some credibility. Bob “Charles” Swain, I know it is you. FOIA request already sent to Rachel.

          • If that is indeed true, “Charles” is a county attorney who has nothing better to do with his “taxpayer” funded time, maybe the public who pays his salary should know what they’re paying for with the exorbitant taxes imposed on them.
            Right now, at a time when people are struggling to make ends meet, when many county offices are not “manned” by personnel and they claim to be concerned about the loss of revenue during the pandemic – what’s going on? If the county/city are fiscally aware, what is really going on with our taxes? Shouldn’t citizens know?
            Maybe we should house some of the county employees in the homeless hotel we just purchased.

          • That just means I understand the issue. I am close to retirement age so other than as a voter and taxpayer in the potential affected territory, I don’t have as much skin in the game as others. I think it is bad policy and if it comes to be it will end up hurting both remnants of the county. As far as the public records request goes, this also means that you have access to the back end of this website so that the owners/editors furnish you with the IP addresses of posters. Most news outlets wouldn’t give that up without a court order. Everything I have laid out has a basis in the law. You would still have to elect all the constitutional officers and provide funding for two and a half of them and partial support for the other two. The fact that the BoCC can meet in the chambers of the various municipalities does not do away with their need for an office and support staff or the statutory need for a County Manager. The new county would have to have a Courthouse and support it with technology. Of course, ad valorem taxation doesn’t really work in a per capita setting. You need the individual parcels and a lot of the western county is agricultural and tax limited. So, ultimately, what the Legislature will want to see is what the actual tax burden will be on the individual property owners in both counties. By taking West Gainesville you take a significant part of the tax base of the County and you leave smaller tax base than the new county would have. You don’t account for the tax burden that the schools will impose which, of course, depends on how much School Board infrastructure is to the west of the dividing line. IMO, you are vastly oversimplifying the process in this day and age. Gilchrist in 1925 is not a good comparator. It still has fewer than 20,000 people and has a 9.4 millage rate.

            How long would you expect it would take to stand up the new County government? Vote in 2022, you are in the fiscal 22-23 year. Presumably the Legislature would provide for transition financing. Elections in fall of 2024 or special election 2023? If the County doesn’t exist until 10/1/25, when would it actually levy its first tax? When would its officers actually have authority to do anything?

            Despite it being, IMO, bad policy, one doesn’t see something like this come around often. If this works, I wonder how many other counties will have break away factions. For someone that has dealt with County and Florida government for some time, it is a fascinating and remarkable process. I will continue to watch this with interest and if this is what the voters want, they will get it. I am reminded of a quote from one of my favorite television shows – “After a time, you may find that ‘having’ is not so pleasing a thing after all as ‘wanting.’

            This is all I have to say on this topic. Since you have dug me up, I don’t want to cause any trouble for myself. Perhaps if it comes to a referendum, I may get active in the campaign.

        • As far as schools?Private school, home school or provide the on/line public school…education
          Is a personal responsibility ..next!

  • ” I do not hide behind any fake names.”
    Bull. The SC Farcebook page has almost every post written by a “Springs County.” Since a county cannot read and write, who is that?
    .
    New Alachua $13 billion
    Sprungs Co. $17 billion
    So the small supposedly RURAL Country county has a value 31% larger than New Alachua County.
    This is all about Trumpian vengeance and hatred of the Liberal Alachua County. PUNISH them by taking away all their taxable value.
    .
    Alachua County plans to borrow $68.5 million to build an unnecessary sports complex at Celebration Pointe. Congratulations, Sprungs County citizens will inherit this DEBT and have to pay it off.

    • Our.Wonderful.Dumb@rse is back…
      You’re still here? I thought you may be hunkering with Hutch.
      You must be pretty happy that Biden is looking at adding an additional $2,000,000,000 – $3,000,000,000 to the national debt. That’s right, that’s three to four trillion dollars for those like you who get confused by the numbers. You stupid knucklehead, even if you were fortunate enough to propagate, your children’s great, great, great, great grandchildren would never pay off that debt. Why don’t you put yourself to some good use and catch those three year olds being thrown over the fence in south Texas. Hypocrite.

    • OW glad you are watching our page. Most Springs County posts are by me or Walt. That’s understood. The numbers are what they are. I didn’t make them up. Funny the Trump charge doesn’t really hold any water when is started before him. I am not even a huge fan of his so, that’s that. So if we are punishing them by taking all of their taxable value…. 1. it sounds like you are acknowledging exactly what we contend; All the tax base is here and its all spent over there. Thank you for that. 2. That puts us in the driver’s seat now doesn’t it. If Alachua County builds it there, then it will be in Springs County as well as the taxes. Time to find some new arguments.

  • Clemmons is clear that he agreed to file a bill calling for a referendum vote only after a forensic audit has been done. Where is the county jail going to be? Where will the county offices be located? Where will the school board offices be located? These are infrastructures which you don’t currently have? You dance around that question repeatedly? And what accounting firm is “helping” you?

    • Why can’t we just have all the “office” space you allude to “donated” or “purchased”?
      Isn’t that what current leadership does? That’s one of the contributing factors to the rising taxes. Government doesn’t tax themselves. Who do you think makes up the difference in lost tax revenues? You don’t think there is a direct correlation between rising housing costs and homelessness in Alachua county? People not being able to pay their bills?

      Please enlighten us and don’t “dance” around the question.

  • Ok, let’s no argu. My personal opinion is that the new Springs County is needed. The other comments here are proof of the difference from West Alachua county and East Alachua county. I think that after a few years everyone will wonder why it wasn’t done years before it was done. The City of Gainesville is a liberal College town and the rural west part of Alachua county is a farming and Homesteading/small town type people whitch are mainly conservative. In the last few years I have noticed the buting of heads in county politics. It’s getting worse. Splitting the county will cut down on this stuff. It will be better in the long run.

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