FishHawk CDDs Continue Merger Talks

By Michelle Caceres

The FishHawk Community Development Districts I, II, and III Boards have each started to hold meetings to further talks and analyze the pros and cons of a possible merger.
Only FH CDD has currently held a separate workshop but all three have discussed the merger topic in their separate CDD meetings.

When the CDD I Board met in June, they identified three potential areas of concern that needed to be resolved, which included removing from CDD III’s books, a $23 million-dollar capital debt in the financials reflected as owed to developer Newland Communities, the desire of the Board members to protect the current capital reserves of each district and how one newly-established CDD Board would be able manage the increased workload of one large district. Currently each district is composed of a five-member Board.

Its Board voted four to one to move forward but to address the concerns that were not identified as most critical to them. The other Boards will be scheduling their workshops to identify the areas they are most concerned with as well.

Each property owner in FishHawk pays an annual assessment, levied on each year’s property tax bills as non-ad valorem assessment, based on two component costs. One is each District’s debt assessment, that was used to finance the community’s infrastructure and will not be affected by a merger. The other is an annual assessment for operations and maintenance (O & M) of community properties.

FishHawk CDD (1,810 homes) and CDD II (2,551 homes) each pay an operations and maintenance assessment of $808.01 annually. This amount was equalized in 2004 by an inter-local agreement between the two Districts. FishHawk CDD III, with 665 homes, pays an operations and maintenance assessment of $1,413.37.

Merging CDD Boards isn’t a new concept. Tampa’s Westchase community, with almost double the number of homes as FishHawk, merged its two CDD Boards in 2011 after more than two years of preparations.

District Manager Greg Cox of Rizzetta & Company, a professional community management and consulting firm, said if the FishHawk CDD Boards decide to move forward, the next step would be for each District to have their currently hires independent counsels to work on the merger agreement paperwork, then there would be meetings for each board to review the agreement and any changes they deemed appropriate. After each board is satisfied there would be a vote, then an administrative process. “A CDD merger is not a quick process,” he said. “It could take a year if nothing major stops it.”

If one board decides a merge is not for them? The whole process can come to a halt. CDD II will host a meeting on Friday, August 11 to discuss, visit www.rizzetta.com for details.