Leon County: Budget Cuts and Tax Woes

It was budget cuts across the board; no agency or county department was spared on Tuesday night. The Leon County Commission had to make nearly $1.9 million in budget cuts in order to make a millage rate reduction work.

Even with a millage rate reduction and a guarantee from Leon County budget managers that 91 percent of homeowners will see a savings on their next property tax bill, some homeowners are still fuming.

Linda Cherry is one of them.

She said, "They might have reduced our rates, but bottom line is our property taxes are increased. They increased this year, they're increasing greatly next year, and they're not just making enough cuts."

Outside agencies and grants took a five percent across the board cut for the next fiscal year.

Kelly Otte with United Partners for Human Services said, "I think they did the fairest thing they could do, which is an across the board cut. I know everyone is not going to agree with me on that, but logically what else could they do? They couldn't pick the favorite children."

Leon County budget managers say even with the reduced millage rate of 8.49 mills, or $8.49 per one thousand dollars taxable value on a home, the county will still take in 11 million more in property tax dollars than last year. But the county says the reality is operating costs are up, along with property values.

The Florida Association of Counties says property tax increases are plaguing homeowners across the state and part of the problem may be out of the counties’ hands, rather what it calls the state's flawed property tax structure.

Bob McKee, Fiscal Policy Director with the Florida Association of Counties, said, "If the base is unfair, if some folks are having to pay unfair market value and others are protected, there's nothing they can do at the county level to correct that."

Leon County commissioners even told angry homeowners last week that now they've done what they can do, the argument needs to now be brought before the state. Several committees have been formed to take a closer look at the issue and make recommendations to the state Legislature.