Special Assessment Programs
Local governments have many service needs and capital funding needs, from building or staffing new fire stations to construction of stormwater system improvements, but they don't always have the funding to provide ongoing services or enhanced and new services for their citizens. Florida's home rule authority allows local governments to collect charges from property owners for certain services and facilities through special assessments, which are a form of non-advalorem (not based on property value) fees.
Special assessments fall under two categories: "service" assessments such as fire, garbage, and stormwater services that provide revenue for operating costs; and "capital" assessments, for construction of roads, stormwater facilities, fire stations, and the like. Capital assessments are fixed according to the debt service schedule at assessment initiation, and end when the affected property owners pay off the borrowed amount.
In addition to our work with local governments to fund operating costs for essential services, GSG works with numerous cities, counties and state agencies in the development of funding strategies and models for a broad range of community infrastructure needs, from the $800 million Osceola WorldExpo Center to numerous road-related projects, such as additional lanes, interchanges and intersection improvements.
GSG has a reputation throughout Florida as a leader in the development, implementation, and administration of special assessment programs. Our unique models have helped more than 150 local governments fund a wide array of service and capital programs, such as:
- Neighborhood Improvements: Canal Dredging, Street Lights, Road Maintenance
Coupled with our expertise in the technical aspects of unique funding methods, we provide city and county governments with a variety of data management support services, including highly sophisticated web-based applications.
GSG's web-based solutions range from simple website lookups to more complex applications for managing large amounts of data from any source. Our assessment program support, online data services and customized data tools are known throughout Florida.
Presently, we provide services and capital assessment programs for 60 local governments throughout Florida, providing valuable support services including:
- Annual parcel-level information updates
- First Class notice merging, printing and mailing
- Assessment roll calculation
- Electronic assessment roll export to Tax Collectors
City of Coral Gables Fire Assessment Program
GSG was contacted in May 2009 to assist the City in addressing projected revenue shortfall issues for FY 2009/10. The City had not anticipated using special assessments to fund services and had not initiated the requisite statutory requirements to impose and collect assessments. To do so notifications would need to be on the ad valorem tax bill to be mailed in November 2009. Even so, GSG was still able to provide specialized services in the development and implementation of a special assessment program to fund fire services within the City. The program was implemented in 2009; the FY 2009-10 fire assessment used an alternate method of collection.
GSG will be assisting the City with transitioning the fire assessment to the tax bill in 2010.
City of Pensacola: Stormwater Utility Program
The City of Pensacola first engaged GSG in 1999 to develop and implement a stormwater utility program over a series of phases. These phases included:
(1) Financial Plan;
(2) A comprehensive review of the current stormwater management regulations for the city in context with Escambia County and the Water Management District and determination of its strategic plan of action to address issues raised;
(3) Development of a rate model and rates; and
(4) Implementation of the stormwater utility program.
Since the program's implementation, GSG has provided ongoing annual maintenance service for the stormwater assessment database and GSG provides a web-based application for the city’s use in daily stormwater utility maintenance tasks.
Village of Islamorada
Since 1998, GSG has assisted the Village of Islamorada in addressing the funding of the delivery of services. Previously the County had provided those services.
GSG has assisted the Village in the development and implementation of special assessment programs to fund solid waste and stormwater services, and mandated wastewater improvements.
- Solid Waste
GSG provided specialized services in the development and implementation of a non-ad valorem assessment program for solid waste collection and disposal services for residential properties. GSG also assisted the Village in transitioning to the ad valorem tax bill collection method for annual solid waste services and delinquent solid waste fees. The program was successfully implemented for beginning in FY 1999-2000. GSG has provided annual assessment maintenance services ever since.
In 2004, the Village turned to GSG to develop a Stormwater Management Program Financial Alternatives and Implementation Action Plan. The study consisted of reviewing the Village’s existing stormwater services program and making recommendations for modifications to improve the system. Additionally, GSG provided an analysis of alternative funding options. Pleased with the results, the Village hired GSG to assist with the development and implementation of a stormwater assessment program to fund costs associated with stormwater services. GSG developed an impervious area methodology and assisted with implementation of the stormwater assessment for FY 2006/7 which was collected on the tax bill. GSG provides the Village with annual maintenance services for its stormwater assessment program.
In 2005, Islamorada ask GSG to develop and implement a special assessment program to fund the capital costs of the wastewater system in the North Plantation Key area. The North Plantation Key Wastewater assessment program was implemented for FY 2005/6. GSG has since been retained to assist in developing and implementing various other wastewater programs to fund capital investments. Islamorada intends to provide wastewater services in phases based on designated areas with assessment programs GSG provides development and implementation services and maintenance services annually.
Since 1995, GSG has assisted the County in the development of several capital and service special assessment programs.
- Driftwood Estates
This assessment program was developed to finance the cost of the acquisition and construction of various road, utility and other improvements within the boundaries of the Driftwood Estates Municipal Service Benefit Unit. The program was implemented in 1997. GSG has continued to provide assistance with annual maintenance of the assessment roll.
- Fire Rescue Program
GSG was retained to develop and implement a special assessment program to fund fire protection services in the unincorporated County. We have provided these services since 1995. GSG developed a Fire Rescue Master Plan for the County in 2003. The intent of the Master Plan was to (1) to identify opportunities for immediate improvement in the delivery of services in Walton County, and (2) to develop recommendations for long-term enhancements in fire rescue service delivery through capital investment and operating decisions. Based on the results of the Master Plan, the County asked GSG to update and revise its annual recurring special assessment program. The goal was to ensure that it could so fund all of the assessable costs associated with providing fire protection services, beginning in FY 2004/5. These fund are collected using the ad valorem process provided in section 197.3632, Florida Statutes (Uniform Method). GSG provides annual assessment maintenance and update services to the County for its fire rescue assessment program.
- Daughette Canal Improvements and Maintenance Services Program
In 2007 GSG developed an assessment methodology to fund canal dredging activities and ongoing annual maintenance services. The apportionment methodology developed by GSG was based on the number of buildable lots attributable to each parcel. GSG determined rates for each component of the assessment program – capital and service – based on this methodology. The assessment program was implemented FY 2008/9. GSG continues to provide annual maintenance to the County for this program.
- Imperial Lakes Project
The Imperial Lakes Project consisted of a private property subdivision with homes built on approximately 30 percent of the 91 subdivision lots. The Imperial Lakes Homeowners Association (HOA) requested assistance from the County Commission to approve and create a mechanism to fund critical repairs. The HOA suggested development of a Municipal Service Benefit Unit (MSBU) to collect funds to repair the four failing man-made lake dams in the Imperial Lakes Improvement Area. GSG assisted the County to develop and implement a special assessment program to fund the capital costs for improvements. The program was implemented in 2003 and GSG has continued to provide assistance to the County with annual maintenance of the assessment roll.
- Survey Ballot
GSG periodically assists the County with the development and mailing of survey ballots for various neighborhood projects. The ballots help the County to understand whether property owners support the development and implementation of a special assessment program to fund various capital improvements. These projects include roadway improvements, critical infrastructure, canal dredging, neighborhood beautification, and more. When residents are favorable the County hires GSG to assist in the development and implementation of an assessment program.
Annual Assessment Services in Florida
In 2011, GSG provided the data analysis to calculate approximately one million individual special assessments and produced over 250,000 first class notices, TRIM notices or bills on behalf of our clients in Florida. The special assessment programs developed and maintained by GSG generated over $200 million this year for GSG clients, enabling the funding of critical community services and capital improvements. This year, GSG worked on over 100 assessments or projects in at least 25 Florida counties.