Brooksville City Council members play shell game with taxpayers
Hernando TodayThe issue: Brooksville property tax levy to stay the same despite council members' pledge to reduce it in lieu of instituting $700,000 in new fire fee taxes. Our opinion: We told you so.
Published: August 28, 2010
Published: August 28, 2010
On June 19, Hernando Today came out strongly against Brooksville's idea of instituting more than $700,000 in new taxes under the guise of calling them fire fees.
The idea, council members said, was to reduce property taxes along with providing a fairer method of ensuring everyone pays for fire protection - including churches, nonprofit agencies and government-owned buildings.
In addition to being an extremely inequitable tax on homeowners and businesses, we also warned at the time "it also could turn into a smokescreen and actually raise taxes."
Well, guess what? That appears to be exactly what this new fire fee tax is - a façade to raise tax revenue for the city, especially since council members voted to end the city's use of lucrative and highly controversial red light cameras.
On Tuesday night - election night - with 24-hour public notice on the city's website, council members agreed to keep the current property tax rate of 6.069 mills next budget year.
That means the $700,000-plus fire fees are simply a new tax.
Brooksville residents and business owners should be outraged.
While council members sold residents this bill of goods, telling them they would reduce the mill levy a proportionate amount, it turns out to have been a scam.
Outraged residents who spoke against the measure last June were placated by council members' insistence that fire fees would be a fairer method of paying for the city's fire/rescue services and that they'd see a reduction in their property tax bills to make up for it.
Talk about a bunch of hooey.
We know what council members are going to say: Since the same mill levy will result in decreased revenues because of property value declines, residents will actually pay less in property taxes utilizing the same mill levy.
Our contention is that if property values have declined, then so should tax bills. After all, when property values rise, there's never an equivalent cut in the mill levy, is there? So when property owners could finally get a break on their tax bills, the city has essentially come up with a new tax to make up the difference.
No wonder people don't trust government: This is a perfect example of why.
But don't be too dismayed. There's still a chance to overcome this insult. The council must hold public hearings on the proposed 2010-11 budget, which takes effect Oct. 1.
Those should be very interesting meetings to attend. We'll let you know in advance so you can voice your concerns.