Tuesday, Jul. 24, 2012 - Tavares, FL
The Lake County Board of Commissioners met today, and voted 4 to 1 to initiate the process to RAISE property millage rates by up to an average 8.2%. Jimmy Conner dissented. Funds collected for the general fund will be generated by a millage rate increased by 7.41% while the millage rate for funds to payoff bond debts for a Public Lands Program approved in a referendum in 2008 by 70% of the voters was a whopping 72% increase (from .1101 mill to .1900 mills). The Board is following state law in submitting ads and proposed maximum millage rates now, so you have to tell them what you think or they could approve the maximum millage rates discussed below.
Staff and the Board claim this tax hike is not a tax hike because property values are dropping this coming year by 5.9%, so they are increasing millage rates to generate just about the same dollar revenues as they received this year.
I don't know about you, but if the normal process of generating revenues would result in a drop in taxes of 5.9% using the prior millage rate, but instead, officials increase the millage tax rate to generate the same revenues as last year, even though property values DROPPED, that to me is a tax increase.
Read the memo I sent the Board this morning, and the attached two schedules to see
GO to this page for information on each Commissioner, click their link at the left and get their email or phone number and ask them why, in this economy, they want to raise taxes.
SEND this to your property owning friends so they can decide if they agree with a tax increase.
Email sent today to the Lake County Board before their vote.
Today’s Lake County Board meeting’s agenda has a Tab 26 item to start the process for the Board to Advertise Public Hearings in September to Approve PROPERTY TAX INCREASES OF 8.2%.
Millage rates for the Public Lands program are increasing 72% (SEVENTY TWO PERCENT) from .1101 to .1900 .
Millage rates for Stormwater, Roads & parks will go up 8.59% to collect the same revenue as last year even though property values have dropped 5.92%.
HERE is the link to the agenda – look for Tab 26 and click the link to get the attachment “Chart of Taxable Values and Millages (which is also attached to this article). This chart shows the historical property revenues and millage rates used, plus the planned increased millage rates.
I have attached the original schedule (above) from the Board agenda, plus I created an expanded analysis attached that is like used in corporations where percent changes in dollars and rates are shown to see impacts. This analysis is attached below this line:
Notice they say NO IMPACTS in the agenda description below, but this starts the process to raise millage rates by an average 8.2% (which was not calculated on the staff worksheet).
Tab 26 “Discuss and set millage rates to be included on TRIM notifications in accordance with the County Manager's recommended Fiscal Year 2013 budget. Approve public hearing dates and times for September 11, 2012 @ 5:05 p.m. and September 25, 2012 @ 5:05 p.m., and approval to advertise these public hearings. There is no fiscal impact. “ ( Ed: WHAT do they mean NO FISCAL impact – this starts the process to raise property taxes by an average 8.2% ?)
Now, they will say it is NOT a tax increase, but just maintaining tax levels from last year.
But, the average property value DROPPED about 5.9% for the coming budget year, so most people would expect the average property tax collections to DROP a similar 5.9%.
However, the Board won’t cut spending enough in relation to the dropping tax rates, so they are INCREASING the average millage rates on properties , and cite the following reasons:
They just learned that expected payments to Medicaid will be $2-million less than projected over four years, or about $500,000 each year, which means they could reduce the millage rate NOW to offset that reduction in spending.
They have not done anything to cutback on the $1.5-million or so subsidies for Lake Express. Board members say this is really complex and other programs would increase, but I haven't seen any clear analysis showing those reasons, and I think it is time to start cutting back on ALL subsidies.
They have not requested the Sheriff reduce his budget at the same percent as the County operations, or 29% over 4-5 years. He has only cut spending by around 12% while not reporting grant revenues or having public hearings on his budget. His budgets or actual spending documents are not posted on his website. His share of the budget is over %50-million, so another 5% overdue cut would offset a lot of the needed revenues. If he was transparent with spending, budgets and had public hearings to review the budgets, I might have a different opinion, but not when his money goes into a black hole without visibility or transparency.
They did not cut the van pool program which is an outright subsidy to an employer in SUMTER County. A study is going on now to evaluate alternatives, but it should be cut. It is nothing but a corporate subsidy to WELL paid workers of a single employer in Sumter County.
They did not cut spending of $288,000 per year thrown at the Metro Orlando Economic Development Commission, which has provided very poor returns to Lake County compared to the three other counties they work with. We have written prior articles on that.
The Board has completely ignored suggestions to review the budget line by line, so they result in summary slides from staff designed to defend spending.
They spent $2-million on a park in the Clermont area earlier this year - so is it justified to raise taxes due to such poor planning?
One of the line items on the millage rate chart is the tax to payoff bonds passed in 2008 (I think) to buy over $30-million in public lands after a referendum was passed by 70% of the voters. However, do you think voters would approve that now, or does that 70% even have a job or a home not in foreclosure? I checked and the County Attorney says they could sell the land and pay some of the bond debt off, but four of the five Baord members still want to hang on to the land. This is ever AFTER the Board recently found none of the lands were accessible because staff and prior Board members (including Welton Cadwell and Jennifer Hill) did not insist that funds be budgeted to open the lands to the public and construct parking etc. So, only four of the land purchases can be used by the public (that I know of...). So, Sell half the lands and payoff some of the debt, reducing cash flow needs. And, don't forget the Federal government has land, the State has land and the Lake County Water Authority also owns public lands, so how much government owned land do we need?
Another reason for increasing the millage rates is the staff and Welton/Hill did not budget for any operations and maintenance for the new judicial center. So, they understated the true cost of the judicial center and that is another reason why they want to increase millage rates.
Staff wants to "maintain levels of service" which means they don't want to cut "service" costs more. I agree that County Departments have taken big hits over the last four years. But, why is there no list of services and possible savings from cutting some of them?
Meanwhile, while discussing this tax increase, the Board also approved a Federal grant program for 966,000 which includes almost 20% for administration, and $561,000 to "replace" up to EIGHT mobile homes for owners. This is a ludicrous use of Federal funds and the Board should be embarrassed by spending all that money for outright replacement of homes for only 8 or so owners. This insanity of spending "free" federal funds has to stop.
Board members need to start thinking in terms of protecting taxpayers and NOT raising taxes to avoid the above decisions.
This is a preliminary step in the budget process, but it is the next step for the proposed millage rate increases to be discussed at two public hearings on taxes in September. But, these increased rates shouldn’t even be used in preliminary steps.
Lake County Fiscal Rangers
Chief Fiscal Watchdog
Volunteers Searching for Ways to Improve Local Government Fiscal Management, Efficiency & Effectiveness
Tavares, FL 32778
"FiscalRangers" page on Facebook
YouTube: NEW 6/2012 - Videos of local political candidate forums and other meetings, like North Lake County Hospital District & Lake County Legislators' Delegation annual forums - visit the youtube channel "FiscalRangersFlorida"
CLICK HERE to see recommended internet links related to Local Lake County government fiscal issues.