Brevard leaders must get it right with redevelopment tax districts
City and county leaders have a chance to get it right with the new redevelopment agencies they created to spur business growth in North Brevard and West Melbourne. Taxpayers have demanded it. We’ll be watching to make sure they do so.
Advisory boards that will draft the plans for turning tax dollars into business incentives should make a big deal out of doing so in the sunshine. That means advertising public meetings, adopting timelines and measurements for success and making the community redevelopment agencies’ plans easy for anyone to find and read.
West Melbourne and Titusville commissioners should study Florida statutes that dictate permissible spending. Yes: building-permit fees and storefront facades. No: city power bills and firefighter salaries.
And county commissioners should stop treating as formalities their annual votes on CRA budgets and audits. Over the years, the new districts will take in several million dollars — from new construction and property appreciation within their boundaries — that would otherwise go to city and county general funds. Taxpayers count on their elected leaders to ask questions before casting their votes.
This summer’s curious controversy over CRAs included days of talk-radio chatter and a handful of public demonstrations at public meetings. The lasting message: Officials can no longer take these for granted.
A coalition that included Commissioner Trudie Infantini, Tea Partiers, libertarians, 9/12 activists and other concerned citizens — according to their letterheads and color-coordinated shirts — leveled a host of accusations about CRAs.
Fears included their potential to condemn private property for redevelopment (illegal in Florida) and property-tax increases for all residents (possible, but no evidence of a problem so far).
But those residents also raised some valid questions: [Read more]