PINELLAS TAXPAYER REVOLT & MILLAGE RATE REDUCTION, 19 SEPTEMBER 2006, Stan Davis09/20/06
The taxpayers in Pinellas County have been buffeted by two years of severe hurricanes, skyrocketing insurance premiums, and spiraling fuel prices, but Tuesday night, at the Board of County Commissionerâ€™s meeting, what they wanted to make very clear is that itâ€™s their property taxes that are killing them.
Stan Davis was there and files this story.
Pinellas County voters were about to get some tax relief Tuesday night.
For the most part, though, they werenâ€™t happy.
They werenâ€™t happy with their property assessments, they werenâ€™t happy with their millage rates, and they werenâ€™t happy with their government.
The tone was set early-on by Woodrow Wilson Meeks, who wasnâ€™t even there to protest his tax rates.
He just wanted to see his hard-earned dollars at work outside his homeâ€¦
[Actuality 1-Meeks/Welch- â€œâ€¦ Iâ€™ve been a homeowner for 21 yearsâ€¦ weâ€™re working on it, and we understand itâ€™s a problem throughout Luddenâ€¦â€?]
And then, County Administrator, Steve Spratt, officially let the public know what service what service reductions county residents could expect if the proposed budget was acceptedâ€¦
[Actuality 2- Spratt- â€œâ€¦ Mr. Chairman, based upon the discussion and directionâ€¦ the lowest BCC county-wide millage rates since 1991â€¦â€?]
But that rateâ€”those reductions â€“were not going to be good enough for the nearly 400 people in attendance.
According to county officials, the proposed cuts would amount to tax relief of only about 90 dollars for the average family.
And to crowd at the meeting Tuesday, that just proved how out of touch their elected officials were with the pain of their constituents.
Pastor Ken Farmin, a third year resident of Pinellas Park was flabbergasted when he found out what he was going to have to pay for his recently-built homeâ€¦
[Actuality 3- Pastor Farmin- â€œâ€¦ I was shocked when I got my TRIM noticeâ€¦ $700 a month I have to pay for this houseâ€¦ â€?]
Another Pastor in the audience, Joseph Diaz, was there in support of a 10 million dollar Trust Fund for affordable housing. He shed light upon a lesser-known impact to small business ownersâ€¦
[Actuality 4- Pastor Diaz- â€œâ€¦ Several of my parishioners who own small businessesâ€¦ a totally untenable position for these people to be inâ€¦â€?]
One small business-owner, Katrina Hill-Klaver, spoke for many, as she talked about the dire straights these high assessments were leading her intoâ€¦
[Actuality 5- Katrina Hill-Klaver- â€œâ€¦ I know a lot of people on the mainland think thatâ€¦ Iâ€™m gonna have to close my business, Iâ€™m just looking for some help. â€¦â€?]
But it was left to retiree Steve Milan to sum up the angry mood of the audience. He and his wife had bought into the â€œretire in Floridaâ€? dream. They have a fixed income, are facing enormous tax assessments, andâ€”because of the Save Our Homes cap â€“face even larger assessments if they sell their condo and downsizeâ€¦
[Actuality 6- Steve Milan- â€œ â€¦My wife and I, we came to this country to retire â€¦ read my lips: I do not want to pay no $18,000 for a stinking condo property tax!â€?]
Some four hours after the meeting began, a weary Commission Chair, Ken Welch, triedâ€”as best he could â€“to explain how between the earlier round of cutsâ€”14 million dollars â€“and this second round of cutsâ€”totaling another 36 million dollars â€“why the proposed tax cuts and service reductions were a good thing, though only a first stepâ€¦
[Actuality 7- Welch- â€œ â€¦ it is a 50 million dollar reductionâ€¦ dedicated to looking at everything that weâ€™re doing going forwardâ€¦â€?]
And then it was soâ€¦ unanimously...
[Actuality 8- Welch- â€œâ€¦Is there a motion toâ€¦ the motion passes unanimously.â€?]
For WMNF, Iâ€™m Stan Davis