Cities and counties in Florida have a valuable tool for rebuilding struggling urban neighborhoods. They create so-called "community redevelopment areas" and funnel the taxes generated as the place rebounds back into the community — paying for new roads, street lights, parks and other improvements that continue the cycle of attracting new investment. It is a public-private partnership with a distinguished record in Florida. Cutting it even in healthy times would be self-destructive. Doing so in a down economy is flat reckless.
But that's what state Sen. Ronda Storms, R-Brandon, proposes. She filed a bill to limit the life span of these special taxing districts to 15 years. Typically, CRAs exist for 20 to 30 years. It takes that much time to generate the money to rebuild some of Florida's depressed urban areas. The 30-year span also gives cities the breathing room to survive normal ups and downs in the economy.
This financing plan has helped the cities for decades, in smaller places, such as Port St. Lucie, to Tampa, St. Petersburg, Miami and Jacksonville. More than 140 CRAs exist from the Panhandle to South Florida. They have not only added billions of dollars to the tax rolls and created thousands of jobs, but they have channeled growth into the existing urban core, saving taxpayers the cost of extending roads and services to the ever-sprawling suburbs. The seed money they raise has brought double-digit growth to many communities' taxing base. They are even more valuable now, in a down real estate market, for they are an incentive that can make a difference in a tightened credit environment. Cutting their life span will spook investors by making it harder for banks to make redevelopment profitable. Who would suffer? Cities and taxpayers.