Hillsborough County Commissioners make historic tax cut by Mitch E. Perry

09/22/06

Last night in Tampa, The Hillsborough County Commission passed a historic property tax cut – the 2nd time in a week and a half that they reacted to public pressure to reduce the millage rate.

Officially, the millage reduction of .5816 is expected to deliver about $60 of tax relief per $100,000 of taxable property value.

The rage from angry citizens at rising property tax increases is something every local government body in Florida has contended with in recent weeks.

Before the public hearing began, Hillsborough Budget Director Eric Johnson discussed the inherent unfairness of the situation by referring to the Save Our Homes Exemption, which caps property tax increases at 3%, regardless of how much the property has been appraised at (roll tape#1 o.q.�by half a billion dollars�)

That, Johnson added, would be 4 times the growth in the taxes this year, making such a cut inconceivable.

But the citizens who spoke out last night weren’t interested in such niceties.

Laverne Perry says it took 6 of his social security checks to pay off the taxes of his 2 vacant homes (roll tape#2 o.q.�the jails is full�)

Jim Engleheart, angry at the dramatic rise in his property taxes, threatened the Commission with the ultimate rebellion (roll tape#3 o.q. “where would you go with�)

Gordon Komay said he was appalled that fellow conservatives on the County Commissioner were, he said, responsible for people not being able to afford their homes, and he said threats to throw those politicians out office if they didn’t go with the program was not an idle threat (roll tape#4 o.q.�well do it…trailed by applause�)

County Commissioners heard criticism on virtually every possible front, from both a liberal and conservative view point. County resident John Novack said the County Commission was too obsessed with regulating adult businesses than providing tax relief to frustrated homeowners (roll tape#5 o.q.�are on budget�)

After an hour of public discussion, County Administrator Pat Bean took to the microphone. Bean sounded wounded by some of the criticism (roll tape#6 o.q.� happen�)

In cutting over $10 million dollars from the Budget to provide a tax break, Commisioners cut $3 million dollars from disaster reserves and $2 ½ million from unallocated transportation expenditures. They also cut $500,000 from a Family Justice Center.

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