POINCIANA – It all came down to two things: street lights and parks.
It’s not cheap to provide either one.
“It costs us $250,00 a month for street lighting,” said Jeanette Coughenour, manager of the Association of Poinciana Villages. “In a lot of communities, it’s in the tax bills, but not here.”
Instead, the cost of providing street lighting is covered by the homeowners association that represents the eight villages in Poinciana, and so it gets financed through the annual association dues that homeowners pay.
“Those things are budgeted to be kept up with for 2012 as well,” Coughenour said.
On Tuesday, Oct. 11, the APV’s board of directors approved a budget for the new fiscal year that starts in January. The budget raises homeowners association dues to cover not only the cost of new street lighting, but also the expenses that APV incurred this year by investing in some new recreational programs.
“The board of directors approved the 2012 budget at the assessment rate of $21 a month, which is $252 a year,” Coughenour said. “It went up by 50 cents per month.”
The dues hike reflected the money that APV spent this year on two major recreation projects. One was construction of the community’s first football field, located at Vance Harmon Park.
The second was a new Teens Center on Marigold Avenue, which is being operated by the Boys & Girl Club of Central Florida. Both the football field and the teen center had dedication ceremonies in August.
Coughenour said money had to be budgeted to pay for the long term maintenance costs of both projects, which she said would make Poinciana more attractive to residents, giving them and their children more things to do here.
“That was a big part of it,” she said of the rate hike.The APV also had to budget for an increase in the amount that is spent to provide street lighting throughout this sprawling community, a mix of rural areas, new subdivisions, and smaller, older neighborhoods.
Poinciana grew enormously in the past decade, and the community that cuts across Polk and Osceola counties experienced a huge building boom and now has a population that exceeds 84,000. That means not only more residents living there, but also more cars on the road — including at night.
Coughenour said the community’s homeowners association, and not the Osceola or Polk County governments, provide street lights, and there is added demand for new ones, particularly on main intersections where traffic is getting heavier.
“Lighting continues to be a big line item in the budget,” she said. “It’s right now around $1 million a year, and we’re doing some lighting expansions. Those are big ticket items. The lighting expansions are on main and collector roads. The regular lighting on the streets and neighborhoods, those come automatically. When a new home is built, we make sure there are lights every 350 feet.”
The new lighting, she said, is needed on the busiest roadways in the community.
“The big collector roads are where houses don’t front any of them,” she said. “They’re big, wide major thoroughfares in the community.”
It’s not an inexpensive item to budget for, she said.
“We include it in the associations’ budget,” Coughenour said. “All of our lighting is through Progress Energy. Once you decide to do an expansion of lighting, you have to pay a rental on the pole, and the kilowatt usage.”
Although Poinciana got a lot of new residential construction in the past eight years, the collapse of Florida’s housing market in 2008 hurt the community, and left it with a high home foreclosure rate and an equally high unemployment rate. Osceola County’s jobless rate last month was 11 percent, and in Polk County, it was even higher, at 12 percent.
Still, Coughenour said she doesn’t believe this dues hike will hurt families’ budgets.
“It’s a very minimal increase,” she said.
The APV also wanted the rate hike to ensure that its reserve fund was well stocked, she said.
“We’re adding some additional monies to the reserve account,” Coughenour said. “We’re well insured, but in the event of a disaster, we want a reserve to tap into.”
The APV sends its bills out to homeowners in November.
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