Property tax was the sole topic at the Leon County Commission's public hearing Wednesday night (09/03/08).
The commission proposed a 16 percent millage rate increase back in July... but changed that to a little less than 11 percent Wednesday morning (09/03/08). However, lots of people still turned out tonight, and they still had strong words to share with the commission.
"Last time I spoke to you folks I asked for a little bit of heart, I don't want your heart... I just want your common sense," said Ted Thomas who opposes the property tax rate increase and was the first speaker of the night.
Citizen after citizen made their way to the Leon County Commission podium Wednesday night... ready to use all three minutes they're allotted to speak their mind. Folks who oppose the millage rate increase brought out bright red signs and many of their speakers were business or rental property owners like Erwin Jackson.
"There has to be something done other than always looking at the tenants and the commercial property owners and landlords to pay for the benefits that this community wants," says Jackson.
Those benefits are what those in favor of the rate increase say are essential services for the community. Bill Phelan says he supports the millage rate increase and commends the commissioners.
"We appreciate what the commission is doing in funding human services and especially health care because health care saves lives," says Phelan.
Many say Amendment One is to blame for creating this dilemma of pitting those who place a high value on public services against business and rental property owners whose properties will not be protected by Amendment One's tax break. Nancy O'Farrell says communities need to raise the millage rate now before Amendment One takes full effect and caps the amount any community can raise property taxes regardless of need.
"Because Amendment One will limit the amount that we can raise property taxes, the millage rate, from now on unless the amendment's appealed. This is our last small window to set our millage rate as high as we can get it reasonably," explains O'Farrell.
After many, many speakers, the commission made a preliminary vote tonight of six to one in favor of a new millage rate of 7.99 per $1000 of assessed value on property. There's one more public hearing on this property tax rate increase. It's on September 16th and afterward, the commission will make their final vote.