Amendment 1 detractors say government services will suffer

01/22/08 Seán Kinane
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In one week, Floridians go to the polls to vote on Amendment 1, a property tax cutting proposal that would reduce revenues for local governments. A coalition of opponents of Amendment 1 met this morning at Tampa’s Lowry Park along the Hillsborough River to convince people to vote no on Amendment 1.

Tampa City Council Member Linda Saul-Sena is the chair of the city’s Parks, Recreation and Culture Committee. Saul-Sena said she is concerned that if Amendment 1 passes, the city’s Parks and Recreation programs will be disproportionately impacted by cuts to the city’s $347-million general fund.

“Half of it is spent on public safety, on police services and fire services. This is absolutely important, and it’s something that we really can’t negotiate, because we are committed to contracts with the police and fire unions. If Amendment 1 passes, we anticipate that we’ll have an $11-million dollar cut from our general fund. An undue majority of that, probably around five or six million, will come from Parks, Recreation, and Culture, which we said is already only $36-million.”

Saul-Sena said that if Amendment 1 passes, the city will have to cut services and will lay off employees.

“What this translates to are everyday losses for our citizens in terms of the quality of their experience. Afterschool classes will be curtailed, programs will be cancelled, maintenance will be cut back. If you look at the city budget, while it looks very large, we are also anticipating a $2-million dollar cut in a few months from the state because their revenue estimating was unfortunately over-optimistic. So even if nothing else happens we’ll have a two million dollar cut.”

Some of those cuts would be to programs that keep kids out of trouble, according to Ed Ross, who provides art programs for children in Sulfur Springs, one of the lowest income neighborhoods in Tampa.

“We would be cut entirely if this amendment passes. We get money from the city of Tampa; we get money from Hillsborough County. … We have 85% of our adults in Sulfur Springs have never completed high school. We have a 90 percent drop out. Every kid in our program -- that goes through our program -- we have a 100 percent graduation rate and 85 percent going on to college. What we do is we change the demographics of this. So we take kids off the streets and not only just keep them in high school, but get them all the way through college.”

Ross said that investing in programs for children saves local governments money.

“This saves so much more money than putting it into having to hire more police to monitor our neighborhoods and to prevent crime. This is crime prevention.”

Rich Brown represents the citizen groups Friends of the River and the River Roundtable in their opposition to Amendment 1. He said that rather than pass a hastily written constitutional amendment, the state should let the Taxation and Budget Reform Commission suggest broader-based reforms of Florida’s tax structure.

“It is our opinion that while Amendment 1 solves some problems for some people, in general it’s a Band-aid, and it does not address the serious systemwide taxation and budgeting problems that we have. In fact, we think that passing this amendment would probably set taxation reform back in Florida by 10 to 20 years. Therefore, not only day-to-day in the Parks and Recreation, but also for the state of Florida, we do not think it’s a good idea. We are against Amendment 1.”

Most Florida homeowners would save an estimated $240 per year if Amendment 1 passes.

Cheryl Schroeder, executive director of the West Central Florida Federation of Labor, said the resulting cuts to services might end up costing people more than that.

“In the city of Tampa alone, we have 2,500 union members that are working day to day to provide services to the city. And this amendment will definitely decrease the amount of money that’s available to fund these services. And for $20 a month, folks have to understand that the ramifications of that are if they want to use the parks or their roads are bad, there’s going to be fees attached to that and those fees will probably be in excess of that $20 per month savings. So they need to kind of weigh their apples to their oranges and understand that at $240 a year tax cut, $20 a month, will be far outweighed by the cost of these services if they want them continued, assuming that they can be continued.”

Floyd Suggs is the President of the West Central Florida Federation of Labor. He opposes Amendment 1 because he wants to maintain government services for the poorest people in the community.

“I think it’s time for a reflection of our social consciousness. … We all should share in the pain or the growth, or the success of our state, but Parks and Recreation, the least amongst us, and the children of single parents, day care, after care, summer programs that these Parks and Recreation people do, it’s just not right.”

Photo credit: Seán Kinane/WMNF

Learn more:

Florida Is Our Home

Florida Taxation and Budget Reform Commission

Previous WMNF coverage of Amendment 1

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