By Mayor Joy Cooper
Hallandale Beach - Knowing all about what a CRA does is always important to any community - After being in office for a few years and writing about what is taking place in our community, I forget that many readers may be new to the city and past publications. If you are, it is important to know my focus has always been on educating, not just writing about City business.
Over the past ten years, I have been a member of the Florida Redevelopment Association Board of Directors. FRA is the “go to” organization for information on everything CRA’s and special districts in the state. The past few years, they have developed a certification program for CRA professionals and board members. As a board member, I have had the chance to approve the courses and curriculum, but never went on to become certified. This week along with CRA staff, I had the chance to attend two of the classes and I’m happy that I did. The refresher 101 was a great update on new laws and the Project Management course provided hands on knowledge of an important process to manage our many projects. Taking the course made me want to update our readers of CRA’s.
What is a CRA (Community Redevelopment Agency)? Note CRA’s can also stand for community redevelopment area. CRA’s are an agency to redevelop areas though projects and programs. CRA’s are established through state statute 163 part III. The legislative intent was to provide a tool to cities and counties to address slum and blight in specific designated areas.
In 1996, our City established our CRA based on a finding of necessity as outlined in statute. The statue defines both slum and blight. A CRA must have at minimum two of such findings. Slum includes conditions that create health issues, crime and poverty which root is caused by buildings which are dilapidated and are at risk of causing endangerment to life. Blight on the other hand is still tied to building conditions but also the built-out environment that causes both health threats, safety risks and an economical decline.
These conditions must be fully documented with both statistics and evidence of the said conditions. Our City evaluated all areas and declared a preponderance of these conditions that were found west of 14th avenue. The City along with the county were noticed of the finding and our intent to form a CRA based on these findings. This is done by public notice which must occur 15 days before the action is taken. Statute provides that all tax authorities must be given notice.
Since Hallandale Beach is part of a charter county, we had to go to the county and present the resolution adopting the finding of necessity. The County approved the CRA at a publicly noticed meeting. The CRA then proceeded to adopt an ordinance and a CRA plan. The tax authorities at that time do have a chance to comment and or challenge the plan. Our plan and agency was approved and we then, established our ability to collect tax increment revenues.
This revenue is put into a separate trust fund to be used for CRA purposes. The Tax Increment Funding TIF as it is usually referring to is not a tax. It is the tax collected by the taxing authorities within the district above the base year that the CRA had been established. There has been confusion of what TIF is and how it can be used. This lead to legal challenges in the past. TIF is not a tax. The supreme court of Florida agrees that it is strictly a revenue that can be used by the CRA. CRA also can borrow and bond based on future revenues.
The review is based on tax collected. Our City tax rate is different than the county. The taxable value is the same, so we collect our taxes and the county collect theirs. As per state statute 95% of the tax collected is remitted to the CRA. This payment must be made by January 1st of every year. Once in the CRA, they must be spent on the project and programs within the CRA plan.
Our CRA has 11 years left to collect incremental revenue. We currently are in the process of redrafting our plan. CRA’s can but are not limited to buying land, building infrastructure, parks and affordable housing. Everything we want to do must be in the plan. We are required to perform an annual audit and report the finding to all taxing authorities.
Because CRA’s have a great deal of flexibility and are different from general government, they are often challenged. It is difficult at best to ensure residents understand the differences. Our CRA has done some great projects and there will be more to come. The projects and programs that we do produce are limited in the fact that the annual revenue runs around 10,000,000 annually. This future CRA plan will be critical to ensure we are doing what we can with the resources and time left.
I encourage all of our stakeholders to look out for our meeting notices and participate in this planning process.
As always, please feel free to contact me anytime with your questions/concerns and ideas at my office: (954) 457-1318 office. On my cell/text at: (954) 632-5700. Or email me at: email@example.com.
I also welcome the opportunity to come to your next meeting to review your budget and other City issues, anytime. Call the above number to schedule an appointment.