Villages Proposal Means Million-Dollar Homes, $Millions in New Tax Revenues for City

Fruitland Park — Sept. 30, 2013 — Fruitland Park commissioners voted to approve a non-binding Memorandum of Understanding last week to support development of more than 2,000 new homes on the Pine Ridge Dairy tract, located on the city’s western edge along the Sumter County line.

Villages officials asked for the Memorandum as they prepare to take the first big step in their billion-dollar development by acquiring about two-thirds of the 987-acre tract.

Community Development Director Charlie Rector said the Villages proposal now calls for a total 2,038 new homes, up from the 1,972 new homes initially projected.

The Villages has until Friday to exercise their option to acquire the parcel.

Gary Moyer, vice president for development in The Villages, estimates the project could gain full approval by next summer.

As soon as next fall, Moyer told city officials recently, The Village of Fruitland Park could begin building—and selling—new homes.

Moyer expects to sell all 2,038 homes within a year.

That means a tidal wave of cash for a revenue-strapped city that hasn’t given its police officers a raise in five years.

Moyer’s latest planning “target” includes 140 “Premier” homes priced from $750,000 to more than $1 million, 1,709 “Designer” homes priced from $500,000 and up and more than 189 “Villas” priced from $220,000 and up.

“Target” sales at the lowest projected prices would total more than $1 billion—and generate millions in new city revenues.

Michael Prestridge, Chief Deputy in Lake County Property Appraiser Carey Baker’s office, said it’s safe to project assessed value on new homes at somewhere in the range of 85 percent to 90 percent of the sale price.

That calculates to around $850 million of new taxable value in Fruitland Park. Homestead Exemptions could reduce that amount to around $750 million.

Commissioners shaved the city’s property tax millage to the rollback rate of 4.7371 per $1,000 of assessed value last week as well, which means property tax revenues from the Villages of Fruitland Park could total more than $3.5 million per year.

This year, property taxes in Fruitland Park will generate about $730,000 on a total assessed value of $158 million, according to City Manager Rick Conner. The city’s 2014 budget is just over $5.5 million.

Once all projected expenses are met—and cash set aside to meet anticipated future expenses such as long-term road maintenance and improvements to the city’s water system—Fruitland Park stands to gain $1.1 million to $1.4 million in new “disposable” revenues annually, Conner said.

“Those are revenues commissioners could safely spend to benefit Fruitland Park as soon as we have the revenues,” he added.

Conner said he isn’t worried commissioners will go on a spending spree.

“Our commission is composed of five budget hawks,” Conner said. “I’m confident they will take the most conservative path.”

Conner said commissioners browbeat Police Chief Terry Isaacs into surrendering a paltry contingency fund he had set aside for raises—money left over from unpaid salaries of officers who have left the force.

“That’s how we managed to squeeze the city budget enough to meet the rollback rate on taxes,” Conner said.

Conner said he is working on a new pay schedule for city workers that will include raises for police officers. He hopes to complete his recommendations in time for the next city commission meeting on October 10.

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