Local Property Tax Cut Reaction

By: Candace White
By: Candace White

The property tax break proposal is causing some concern for local government officials.

If it passes, it will cap local government spending, beginning July 1st.

Most budgets will remain the same as this year's, with one exception: school districts are completely exempt.

The proposed 20-percent property tax cut may sound like a good idea, especially if you paid sky-high property taxes this past year.

Jon McFatter, member of the Bay District School Board said, "It appears that our leadership in Tallahassee is actually hearing the cry of the citizens of Florida and there's been a sense of urgency here."

But the plan is so radical, it leaves a lot of unanswered questions. Like how will a revenue system based on higher sales taxes affect rural counties.

Mike Thomas, with the Bay Co. Commission said, "Counties like Franklin County, Liberty County, Levy County when they don't have a large sales tax base, they won't even have the money to keep their county running."

Also, how will county governments fund new projects like sewage treatment plants or jail facilities?

Right now, that's usually accomplished using a bond issue, with property taxes acting as collateral.

Thomas thinks the state will be telling local government what to do with our own money. "The negative effect is there's no local control,” he said. “People in this area have a right to vote on the county commissioners and school board and how they spend their money or don't spend it."

Some believe the school systems will be the real winners, since the proposed spending cap doesn’t affect them.

However, school board members could end up taking the heat from taxpayers if they're taxing authorities resulted in higher property taxes down the road.

"We need to read through the details and determine what's actually here before we make any assessments as to how this is gonna pan out or if it's gonna work for certainly the citizens of Bay County," McFatter says.

Tuesday, Bay County commissioners voted to send a letter to the legislators, letting them know Bay County’s desires and concerns on the property tax issue.

It will be a key topic during the upcoming legislative session beginning next month.

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