Brian J. Armstrong, P.G., executive director of the Southwest Florida Water Management District, answers some common questions.
Q: What is the Southwest Florida Water Management District?
A: The Southwest Florida Water Management District (District) was created in 1961 by the Florida Legislature to serve as a local sponsor for a series of federal flood control projects after Hurricane Donna caused massive flooding in the region. The District encompasses roughly 10,000 square miles in all or part of 16 counties and serves a population of nearly 6 million people. Today, the District is responsible for managing the water resources for West-Central Florida as directed by state law, and its mission is to protect water resources, minimize flood risks and ensure the public’s water needs are met.
Q: Who oversees the District and where does its funding come from?
A: A 13-member governing board oversees District activities. Members are unpaid volunteers appointed by the governor and confirmed by the Florida Senate to set policy and administer the budget. District funding comes primarily from ad valorem property taxes. While the Florida Legislature allows a tax levy up to 1 mill. ($1 for each $1,000 of assessed land value), the current millage rate is far less than the maximum at 0.2669 mill. For the owner of a $150,000 home with a $50,000 homestead exemption, the District tax would be $26.69 a year, or about $2.22 per month.
Q: How does the District use my tax dollars?
A: More than half of the District’s current budget is dedicated to water resource projects such as restoring springs, reducing flooding and pollution and developing alternative water supplies. Examples include $15.9 million for springs initiatives to restore springs and spring-fed rivers, improve water quality and clarity as well as restore natural habitats; $26.3 million for Watershed Management Program plans to support floodplain management decisions and initiatives as well as address potential and existing flooding problems; and $20.9 million for development of alternative water supplies to ensure an adequate supply of water for both now and in the future.
To learn more about the District, visit WaterMatters.org.