Group: Money should have gone to help owners
BY JOE KOLLIN | South Florida Sun-Sentinel
May 8, 2008
Almost one-third of the money designated for programs to help educate condo owners and pay for enforcement of condo laws will be diverted for unrelated state expenses as a result of the current budget crunch.
The $66.2 billion state budget approved last week by the Legislature includes $10 million from the condo trust fund, according to Thomas Philpot, a spokesman for Gov. Charlie Crist.
The state created the trust fund so condo owners, not other taxpayers, would pay for condo services.
Money comes from the $4 annual fee each unit owner pays the state via his and her association, or about $5.6 million a year based on 1.4 million units. Money also comes from fees charged developers when they build condos and fines paid by associations that violate condo laws.
The trust fund currently contains about $29 million, about $7 million of which is used for investigators and accountants to review complaints by owners, educational programs for owners and the condo ombudsman. The rest is held in reserve.
"The $10 million trust fund sweep will not have a negative impact" on state services to condos, according to Michael Cochran, director of the Division of Florida Land Sales, Condominiums & Mobile Homes, the agency that regulates condos.
In January, Crist had proposed taking $20 million from the fund to help pay for other state programs.
Jan Bergemann, president of Deland-based Cyber Citizens for Justice, a volunteer organization that helps unit owners, called it wrong to have so much condo money in reserve.
"There shouldn't be a surplus. The money should have been used for the purpose intended — protection of condo owners," he said.
Joe Kollin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 561-243-6503.