FELLSMERE – The City of Fellsmere will send a letter to members of the legislative delegation defending their redevelopment funding and its amount.
The decision came during this month’s city council meeting after county leaders said they would ask the same delegation to decrease the funding the county must pay to the city.
“I have a big problem with this,” Mayor Susan Adams said in response to City Manager Jason Nunemaker presenting the issue to council. “It’s just ridiculous.”
Rather than argue the point in front of the delegation next week, the city wanted to put its position on record by sending a letter.
The county plans to ask the four Indian River County Legislative Delegation members to change its rules regarding funding for the established community redevelopment areas, one in Fellsmere and another in Sebastian.
County Budget Director Jason Brown told VeroNews.com late last month that it could save $58,000 annually if the legislature scaled back county-required funding by 20 percent.
For Fellsmere, that would mean losing an estimated $7,000 that it could have used to upgrade business facades, offer as grants for connecting to the water system and improve the overall state of the city’s redevelopment area.
“I was kind of taken aback by it,” Nunemaker said of the county’s maneuver, noting he found out through the media, not through government channels.
Fellsmere uses its CRA funds by issuing grants to businesses to help in improving their façade, hooking into the city’s water and sewer system, and even assisting in painting over graffiti.
Both Fellsmere and the City of Sebastian have established community redevelopment areas, which help serve as a way to funnel funds directly to those targeted areas for improvements. Tax values are set a certain level within the CRAs for a specific period of time. As improvements and new development come in, the tax value – in theory – increases but the property owners do not pay that increase. Instead, the county does.
Indian River County leaders have concerns about how funding the CRAs could impact the county’s budget.
“The county is strained financially,” Brown said in December, noting that property taxes are down $10 million. “This is an additional drain.”
Nunemaker said the city is “not trying to pilfer the county’s revenue.”
Mayor Adams took issue with the county looking to make up its budget gaps by tapping the city’s funds.
“There’s other places for it,” she said of where the county could find funds without touching Fellsmere.
County leaders plan to meet with its legislative delegation 9 a.m. Jan. 26 when the delegation holds a hearing to discuss bills in the Vero Beach City Council Chambers, 1053 20th Place.
The legislative delegation consists of State Representatives Debbie Mayfield and Ralph Poppell and State Senators Joe Negron and Mike Haridolos.