Poinciana could have own government in 2014



POINCIANA, Fla. - Poinciana could have own government in 2014

A group of Poinciana residents are not giving up their fight to turn the area into a city.

Supporters said it would cost them less to pay taxes than to pay their homeowners association fees.

At a meeting Monday some questioned if the change is what's best for the community.

A question-and-answer session heated up over the future of Poinciana.

Some residents want to turn the community into a city of around 47,000 people with its own government.

"We're outgrowing ourselves and it's time to make this a city," said Poinciana resident Annette Brown-Bess.

Resident Frank Sowers doesn't agree.

"There's no guarantee that if we become a city that it will help the community," Sowers said.

Representatives from the Florida League of Cities came to town Monday to lay out the pros and cons of the change.

Poinciana is run by homeowners associations now. The people pushing to make the area a city said they want elected officials who can fight for their best interests.

"We need to be able to vote to speak," said Martin Negron, who wants a city.

"Who is speaking for Poinciana? Nobody is speaking for Poinciana," Brown-Bess said.

HOA funds a lot in Poinciana. If it were a city, taxes would generate most of the revenue.

Homeowners pay $250 each year to the association. Walmart pays the same fee even though the property value is higher. If Poinciana becomes a city it would pay much more into the community.

Supporters calculate residents would pay about half as much in taxes as they currently do in HOA fees, but some fear there's fine print they could be missing.

"We're going to have to pay come tax time for those various aspects of what it takes to establish a new city," resident Beverly Sanders said.

The long process is only getting started. Poinciana would still rely on the counties for emergency services and law enforcement.

There's another public meeting Monday night at 7 p.m. at the Poinciana Public Library.

Poinciana Incorporates Now Citizens Home Organization is working to take the issue to state lawmakers again after it failed three years ago.

Poinciana has been growing since 1971. Shopping centers, homes and even a hospital are set to open in 2013.

The area is part of both Osceola and Polk counties and is unincorporated. That means it isn't a municipality with its own government.

Residents like Keith Laytham think it's time for a change.

"As a municipal government like a village or a city, Poinciana would be holding elections where all of the citizens would be able to vote," Laytham said.

If Poinciana became a city, it would have a population of close to 50,000 people. That's about the size of Titusville and bigger than St. Cloud.

Poinciana's funding comes from Osceola and Polk county governments and money collected by the homeowners associations covers others.

But Laytham said residents are missing out on money they're already paying in gas, sales and utility taxes.

"Those taxes are made available to city governments so that they can be spent locally, but it's not available to homeowners associations," Laytham said.

The group would still look to the counties for emergency services and law enforcement.

Laytham said the people just want the chance to vote for their leadership and have more control over where their money goes.

"We get some back from the counties, but not all of it," Laytham said.