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City still collecting 2019 CRA assessment; assessment set for 2020

Post Date:02/04/2020 5:00 PM

The Panama City Beach City Council has approved the annual assessment for the Front Beach Road Community Redevelopment Area (CRA) Plan for fiscal year 2020-21.

The Assessment funds are a small part of the funding for this redevelopment area; the assessment also serves to honor an interlocal agreement with Bay County to use some assessment revenue in maintaining the CRA. However, the overwhelming portion of funding supporting this redevelopment initiative comes from redevelopment area property taxes paid to Bay County which are redirected back to the City to redevelop the roads in this area.

The City Council also recently agreed to issue up to $80 million in Community Redevelopment Bonds to fast forward the reimagination of Front Beach Road. These bonds will be repaid from the same redirected tax revenues from Bay County, under state law provisions, currently funding the road redevelopment.

The CRA non-ad valorem assessment is to defray a small portion of City administration of this redevelopment plan and a small portion of maintenance in the CRA. The assessment rate is unchanged from last year but will include an additional four percent administration fee and adjustments for early payment as the collection will be handled by the Bay County property appraiser and tax collector office. It will be collected along with annual property taxes, beginning in November 2020.

LEARN IF YOUR PROPERTY IS DELINQUENT

Last year was the first year of the assessment, and the City mailed invoices to the owners of 12,500-plus parcels of property located within the Front Beach Road (FBR) CRA. This assessment, which averaged less than $60 per residential property, was expected to bring in around $703,000 for the 2019-20 fiscal year. Currently about 80 percent of those properties billed last fall have paid in full. These funds can ONLY be used for maintenance and administrative costs for the CRA. Those bills, if not paid, are now delinquent.

If you have not paid, there is still time to submit your payment and save the cost associated with collection. You can find your bill and print it on-line at:

http://quicksearch.ennead-data.com/pcbfbrcra/. Please go ahead and pay your bill if you have not.

When the Front Beach Road CRA Plan was adopted in 2001, it included a provision allowing for assessments to pay for the maintenance of infrastructure. The PCB City Council that originally adopted the plan wanted a mechanism in place to fund improvements and maintenance after the plan’s expiration, though no Council had taken the steps to comply and implement an assessment until 2019.

UPDATED TIME FRAME FOR PROJECT COMPLETION

The CRA Plan was initially for a 30-year period of redevelopment of Front Beach Road, and several other connector roads. The FBR CRA includes all of Front Beach Road and a portion of Panama City Beach Parkway, Hutchison Boulevard, Arnold Road, Cobb Road, Powell Adams Road, Hill Road, Nautilus Street, Clara Avenue, Alf Coleman Road, Richard Jackson Boulevard and North and South Thomas Drive. In the fall of 2019, the City extended the duration of the plan to 2049, and is working to accelerate completion of this ambitious and transformative project for our community.

Segment 3 of the CRA to include portions of State Road 79 to Front Beach, just west of that intersection and east to Lullwater Drive, will kick off this year.

In directing the issuance of up to $80 million in Community Redevelopment Bonds to accelerate the design, acquisition and construction of this FBR CRA project, the City Council is addressing the time and resources consumed in the past with necessary planning and attention to detail required by the County and FDOT, and working  to accelerate progress. The first $40 million bond issue has been authorized and will substantially fund the next three segments of the Front Beach Road CRA Plan, Segments 4.1, 4.2 and 4.3, from Lullwater Drive to Richard Jackson Boulevard. These segments include 4.6 miles of roadway.

It is expected that a second bond issue of up to $40 million would be brought back before the City Council in 2025 or sooner.

The size of this endeavor is only matched by the time it takes to accomplish it.

“The reason this is coming up in two $40 million bonds is, we are not capable of moving fast enough to do these roads all at one time,” said Mayor Mike Thomas. “If we started on one end of the CRA and moved forward, we would shut down Front Beach Road.”

The City is one of only a handful in the State of Florida which does not have an ad valorem tax and depends on local business taxes as its primary funding source. Thomas said attempting to redo all of Front Beach Road at one time would kill business, but it is possible for more than one section to be under construction at the same time.

The FBR CRA Plan is funded by tax increment financing (TIF), a way to leverage public funds and private investment. Under a TIF, the dollar value of all real property in the CRA was measured as a benchmark in 2002. Since then, Bay County continues to receive tax dollars on that benchmarked value of the property while 95 percent of the additional revenues from the increase in real property values is now redirected to the City’s CRA Trust Fund for the redevelopment of the FBR redevelopment area. These redirected tax increment funds will now be pledged to the repayment of the bonds to be issued to more quickly generate money to complete the project sooner.

The Panama City Beach Front Beach Road CRA has been instrumental in increasing property values 346 percent over a 16-year period, based on county tax calculations. The Front Beach Road CRA benefits property owners, businesses, residents and tourists through the enhancement of the tourist corridor, the unofficial main street for Panama City Beach. Infrastructure improvements include the construction of new roads, sidewalks, bicycle paths, dedicated mass transit lanes, and storm water ponds with pocket parks. Beach access points are also being refurbished and utilities are being buried.

Improvements encourage new tourist-oriented private/public attractions that will create additional year-round employment opportunities for local citizens. The CRA improvements correct numerous Front Beach Road problems and increase access, traffic flow and safety for visitors and residents alike.

Public Information Officer Debbie Ward can be reached at dward@pcbgov.com or (850) 233-5100, Ext. 2261.

 

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