Saturday, Sept., 15, 2012 - Tavares, FL
An audit by an Inspector General found that the South Florida Water Management District,
"the largest public landowner in Florida — has no detailed inventory of the 1.4 million acres it owns and no formal process to sell or lease land it no longer needs, according to an audit by the district’s inspector general.
The audit was made public at the monthly meeting of the district’s governing board on Thursday. Board members were briefed before the meeting and there was no discussion or comment from the public about the findings.
The audit follows 18 months of questions — from the state, media and the district’s own inspector general — about the practices used to purchase and manage $2.8 billion the district said it needed for restoration, flood control and water storage projects.
The results of the audit point out a constant failure I see with government - the lack of business like programs to track and react to asset management methods used by businesses. In other words, once they get the land, there is no cost to them, and they horde it and want more, regardless of whether the taxpayers are informed or approve.
In my view, government should be forced to pay property taxes on owned land, just like any other business, and also departments should be charged market level rents on the facilities they use. The charges and both original purchase prices, market prices should be included in each departmental budget section, not in a separate one.
Lake County is located within the St. John's River Water Management District, which also has similar land purchase programs. Not long ago, a spokesman told the Lake County Board of Commissioners that they were going through a required review (by Gov. Scott) of THEIR lands to determine which were no longer needed and should be sold. I have not seen any update on their actions.
Land purchases by government are a big problem - Agenda 21 tells them to buy land and restrict human access to gain favor with environmentalists and force people into transit villages designed by "professional planners" who belong to the American Planner's Association. That organization received millions of Federal dollars from many Federal agencies to devise state level legislative plans to setup county & city "comprehensive plans" that contain many restrictions on land use. Additionally, Federal agencies like the EPA also have implemented restrictions on private land use, for instance decreeing that some lands cannot be used due to endangered species, or due to the existence of newly defined "wetlands" that cannot be used or developed.
If you search on Google images for "public lands" you can find all sorts of maps showing how much land, expecially in western states, has been gobbled up by the Federal government, leaving little land to develop for mineral resources, etc. At what point in time does the government have too much land, paid for with taxpayers funds?
In Utah, they are having a confrontation between the Governor, who wants Utah to take over Federal public lands so they can develop some of the resources, including oil, etc. He is taking the stance that the Feds have restricted so much of their land that Utah cannot develop a potential energy base. http://www.sltrib.com/sltrib/politics/54884661-90/balanced-federal-governor-herbert.html.csp
Lake County government purchased $34-million in public lands by bonds approved in a referendum in 2004, but did not budget for operating those lands for public access. Only last year, the County Board allocated minimum funds to provide basic parking and facilities at four of the 11 public parcels. Staff had not done anything before because they had Caddillac level plans and no budgets to implement them.
Just this last week, county "Parks & Trails" staff admitted they had no budgets to operate or maintain some existing parks but wanted approval to buy more land for a "land bank" for future parks, even though they had no operating or maintenance funds for them.
The key issue in this county, like in the Federal government programs, is the wants of people who want free parks and those who, in this county with many retirees, don't have the discretionary funds to keep paying via taxes for more land.
At what point in time do taxpayers say "you have enough land, sell off any that you cannot operate" and demand government stop buying and holding land, and removing land from tax rolls and human use.
We will follow up the St. John's River Water Management District excess land issue and compare the audit findings from south Florida to our water district. (Note: The same applies to the Lake County Water Authority, which also owns a lot of public lands0.