Tampa City Council by Mitch E. Perry

09/15/06

The Tampa City Council voted last night to cut property taxes for the first time in nearly 2 decades. But the actual amount of the cut will be minimal for most property owners.

Nevertheless, the Council reacted, no doubt affected by the bitter rhetoric coming from many angry citizens who spoke out last night.

The actual reduction will go from 6.539 to 6.4 mills.

Trish Moore owns property on Azeele Street in South Tampa, where Circles restaurant sits. She says her property taxes in the last year went from $10,000 to $17,000. Her anger and frustration led her to provide suggestions for what the city should do for property owners (roll tape#1 o.q.�more of a reserve fund�)

Frank Millen has lived in Tampa for 21 years.. He said he built a new home just a year ago. He said his property taxes went from $4,100 to $13,000, and that’s forcing him to make a dramatic change in his lifestyle (roll tape#2 o.q.�move to Atlanta�)

Sherry Parsons says she moved from Ohio 7 years ago. She was disgusted with what she said were the misplaced priorities of the Tampa administration (roll tape#3 o.q.�3 percent�)

Last night’s meeting follows a tumultuous Hillsborough County Commission meeting on Tuesday, where the Board indicated they make cut the tax rate by 1 mill. Similar events were experienced in St. Petersburg, at the Pinellas County Commmission, and throughout Florida in recent weeks.

Earlier this summer, City Councilmembers Sean Harrison and Rose Ferlita both suggested that the City consider giving residents a property tax break, but they were rebuffed by their colleagues.

Ferlita once again brought up the issue, even though she conceded the tax break would be minimal (roll tape#4 o.q.�without feeling up here�)

There has been discussion in Tallahassee about raising the homeowners tax exemption from $25 to $50,000…But with appraised values for homes in Florida rising so much,
Dalphan Fernandez said the problems that home owners are facing isn’t the fault of the City Council (roll tape#5 o.q.� )

Councilwoman Linda Saul-Sena has been a consistent ‘no’ vote against giving residents a tax break, as she told the citizens packed into the City Hall chambers that there was no place in the budget for a cut (roll tape#5 o.q.�neighborhood oriented budget�)

Councilwoman Mary Alvarez was also against the idea of giving a property rate cut. She appeared defensive after hearing angry citizen complaints (roll tape#6 o.q.�a job to do�)

But in the end, City Councilman Kevin White, who is running for a Hillsborough County Commission seat, and Councilman John Dingfelder, were persuaded to join Ferlita and Harrison and vote for the tax cut . Dingfelder said the vote was symbolic, but voted for a the break nonetheless (roll tape#7 o.q.� we all know it�)

Applauding the Council’s move is a former Tampa City Councilman, Bob Buckhorn. He thinks the topic has become so universal throughout the state that it will become an issue in the Governors Race (roll tape#8 o.q.� becoming more valuable)

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