City, County debate how to move forward with CRA board

By: Mariel Carbone | WCTV Eyewitness News
November 9, 2017

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) -- Members of the joint city-county CRA board debated Thursday over how to move forward following the county's unanimous decision to leave the downtown CRA district.

The meeting was the first time the board has met since the county's vote, as well as the city's vote to continue funding the downtown district while limiting the focus to infrastructure projects.

The focus on Thursday was how to proceed with the make up of the CRA board. Under state law, there can only be one Community Redevelopment Agency board, regardless of the number of districts. Currently, the city and county have two districts: Frenchtown-Southside and the downtown. Although the county plans to leave the downtown district, it wants to stay in the Frenchtown-Southside district. This means that it would still contribute funds to the Frenchtown-Southside district.

Some city leaders believe the board should go back to having only city leadership, which is how the board was originally formed when the CRA only constituted the Frenchtown-Southside district.

"Under the original district the only folks who served as members of the board was the city," said Mayor Andrew Gillum. The county later came on board through negotiations that were initiated when the board developed the downtown district.

"Across the state it's a rare occasion for the county to sit as decision makers over the district," said Gillum.

On the other side, some county leaders would like the county to still continue to have input on decisions that affect them, meaning projects in the Frenchtown-Southside district.

County Commissioner and CRA Chairman Nick Maddox proposed that CRA staff would make presentations to both the county commission and CRA board- which would be made up of only city leaders- to allow the county to still give input whenever projects involve them.

"The county would take a vote and have a position on those issues as well," said Nick Maddox. "So by that way, those issues would pass pending approval of the majority of both boards and not just the majority of one."

City Commissioner Nancy Miller expressed concerns that that makeup would give the county the power to veto anything the board decided, and would technically make there be two boards, conflicting with state law.

Gillum was not opposed to the county commissioners having updates on the projects and voting, but believed that their votes should have no weight on whether the CRA board would pass projects.

"I think it would be wonderful to know what the county thinks about projects that occur within the county," said Gillum. "As for that opinion to have weight to it with regards to a vote, I"m against that as."

City Commissioner Scott Maddox questioned the purpose of the debate.

"The city didn't ask for the change. The county asked for the change," said Scott Maddox."My gosh. We've had this conversation now and how many different meetings and this agenda item is simply to go back and ratify the county position and bring it back to us."

The group ultimately moved to have the City Manager and County Administrator begin negotiations to change the inter local agreement, while bringing back options for the new make up of the board and legal repercussions of this decision.

CRA’s oversee designated areas of the community. They’re funded through local tax dollars, specifically through tax increment funding. The property value of the area is determined on a fixed date. Then, when property values go up for that area, any tax revenue above that fixed rate goes straight into the CRA fund, which is in turn used to fund projects in the designated CRA area.

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