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Political Debates
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Another large crowd was on hand last Thursday evening for the second of three public hearings for the FY15 budget that the county is required to hold in accordance to state law. Audience members were very vocal on their discontent with the decision that the commissioners had made concerning the tax increase.
 
The Dade County Board of Commissioners held two public hearings last Thursday, Aug. 21, concerning the upcoming tax increase. The revised budget increases taxes by 25.53 percent, down from the projected 44 percent in the last budget.

The Commissioners held three hearings last month before deciding not to increase taxes, as advertised 44 percent. County Executive Ted Rumley was unable to get a motion on the tax increase after citizens expressed their concern over such a dramatic increase.

The two meetings on Thursday were well attended, not as large as the last meeting on the previous increase, but certainly good numbers.

Rex Blevins spoke at the 6 p.m. meeting and stated, “You should have passed the 44 percent increase.” He added that, “people need to keep their jobs and if those jobs were not needed now they weren’t needed in the past.”

Blevins also stated that all the exemptions needed to be looked at. The county loses 80 percent of taxes on the conservation use exemption.

Billy Conners said, “I am tired of taxes going up!” He gave examples of property near his that was valued differently. He gave examples of his being valued at $8,000 an acre while one side of his property was $1,600 an acre and on the other side it was at $2,000 an acre. Why do we have so many discrepancies he asked?

Greg Smyth, owner of Roof Curb Systems, stated he had looked at the numbers a lot more than he should have. He stated his real concern was that they have cut $1 million from what? “I agree with Rex, it will take maybe five mills to fix the problem,” he stated.

Smyth added that they have been over budget by some $2.8 million in the last two years. He also commended them on making $200,000 in two weeks in increased revenue. How did you do that he asked?

Don Townsend explained that $150,000 of that will be from expected sale of surplus county land and the remainder has come from updated projections on ad valorem taxes, fines and such.
James Tinker suggested seeing about getting Highway 299 in Wildwood increased to four lanes to attract additional retail business. The increase in sales tax would go a long way in helping with the problem he said.

Ben Brandon addressed the Commission and suggested that the county “didn’t have a budget problem, it has a management problem.” He referred to a $5 million fund balance in January of 2009 that was down to $289,000 in 2013 and the numbers are not in yet on 2014.

Brandon added that he was sure they try hard and mean well but take your time and review things closely before making this tax increase.

Leonard Payne said I can't tell you how to do your job but suggested a 2¢ increase in sales tax would certainly help.

Jamie Blevins advised the commission that until they pass a budget with a surplus they are not going to fix the problem. All the exemptions need to be looked at carefully and make sure those who are getting them actually qualify for them. “Take it on the chin now and build a fund balance. Fix the problem,” he said.

No one else addressed the Commission during the meeting but several people stayed and talked to the commissioners individually after the meeting.

The next public hearing will be Thursday, Aug. 28 at 6 p.m. in the Dade County Commission meeting room. Immediately following that meeting the commission will hold a special called meeting to vote on the tax mill increase.





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