Property Tax cuts vex local governments

05/17/07 Mitch E. Perry
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Local City and County Governments in Florida continue to hold their breath as to how seriously they’ll need to cut their budgets after the Legislature convenes next month.


Yesterday House Democrats produced their plan to provide property tax relief to Floridians.  It’s similar to the last plan unveiled by House Republicans, in that they would both dramatically increase the homestead exemption on a primary residence. 


The Democrats plan is also different in that it would include specific dollar amounts, percentages and charts showing expected savings in each of Florida’s 67 counties.


The plan would offer a homestead exemption equal to half the median just value in the home county. 


Cragin Mosteller is with the Florida Association of Counties.  (roll tape1# o.q.”serious concerns”)


Last month Tampa Mayor Pam Iorio told department heads to hold spending to last year’s levels – and said some city services would be cut.    Police Chief Steven Hogue said such cuts would provide fewer police officers in the streets.


One place where budget cuts won’t take place apparently is inside City Hall.  The St. Petersburg Times reported Thursday that Council chairwoman Gwen Miller wrote to Iorio that 90 percent of the city’s budget is salaries, and that the request is ‘not feasible’.


Miller says that council members however will cut $1,000 from their district budgets.


At the Tampa City Council’s meeting, one citizen suggested that the Council do a lot more to help prevent massive cuts.  Spencer Cass suggested that the Councilmembers and the Mayor forgo their salary raises, which just kicked in last month.

Spencer Cass came up with 24 different ways the city can save money without cutting services.  (roll tape#2 o.q.”maximize income”)


City Staff had been scheduled to update the Council on how department heads had been coping with the Mayor‘s directive, but then called off their appearance.  Citizen Spencer Cass expressed disdain that the public was not alerted about that, but gave us many concrete steps as he could within his 3 minute space allotted (roll tape#3 o.q.”and look for efficiencies””)


The potential property tax cuts are sure to hit Hillsborough County hard as well.  On Wednesday, County Administrator Pat Bean told Commissioners that the County could stand to lose anywhere between $45 to $217 Million dollars off their budget.


Craigin Mosteller with the Florida Association of Counties says local governments in Florida are prepared to take a hit of some sort,  but not of the devastating sort (roll tape#4 o.q.”overall winner”)


According to analysts, the Democrats' proposal would cut local government spending by up to $5 billion per year. But unlike the House Republican plan, it also would cut the property taxes required by the state for public schools, meaning the lawmakers would have to find other money to adequately fund schools.


Property-tax negotiators in the House and Senate said yesterday that they have agreed to focus their joint meeting next week entirely on expanding or creating exemptions for all property owners.

It is one of two interim meetings lawmakers have scheduled ahead of the June special session devoted to cutting property taxes




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