The numbers are in, and Mayor John Peyton will be proposing a smaller property tax increase than originally thought. Why? It seem that the tax rolls came rolling in, and while our property values have gone down, they haven’t decreased as much as originally expected.
This is a good thing in so many ways.
First the official numbers from the Mayor’s Office. A hat tip to whomever it was that got my e-mail to Misty Skipper, who sends out such things. (Shameless plug alert) It’ll come in handy as I host the new Jacksonville Observer Radio Show on WBOB beginning next Wednesday at 5:00. </SP>
Property values in Duval County have dropped $3.5 billion when compared to last year, according to the Mayor’s office news release. That’s a pretty healthy drop, but not as much as originally expected. In fact, it’s less than had been originally forecast when the Mayor went before the public and media and said he’d have to propose a 1.2 mil property tax increase which would have cost the “average” Duval County homeowner $115 a year.
With today’s announced revisions in the property assessments, Mayor John Peyton will propose to the Jacksonville City Council a 9.50 millage rate for the upcoming fiscal year, an increase over the current year of 1.02 mills. This increase is estimated to cost the average Duval County homeowner $97 next year.
The news release goes on to say;
All budget planning to date has been based upon previous estimates and projections by the property appraiser. The receipt of the certified tax roll allows for final determination of revenue lost to the city’s general fund and the setting of the mayor’s proposed millage rate for fiscal year 2009/2010.
Based on the final numbers, the city has an estimated $170 million budget challenge in the upcoming fiscal year. Of that total, $100 million is driven by Tallahassee-forced property tax reform, $40 million by increased pension costs and $30 million by the global economic collapse.
Mayor Peyton still has a steep hill to climb getting the council to sign off on the increase, but after having watched “Pitchmen” all season, getting under that $100 price point may be critical. And with the lower numbers, it might require only 13 votes rather than 15.
We’re lucky in our little corner of the world that things have held pretty steady here in Neptune Beach, at least according to Realty Track. Looking at the Property Appraisers website, I find for tax purposes my little castle has apparently lost about $20,000 in value over the past year, which I suppose isn’t too bad, considering. It’s still well ahead of what we owe, which is a good thing. But that $97 is pretty meaningless out here, as those of us who live in communities with interlocal agreements are double taxed anyway. We have to pay for our own police force and other city services. and we’ve paid garbage fees for years.
So, the debate may have gotten a little quieter with this new assessment. There is a camp out there that says any tax increase is bad. I can’t say I’m solidly in the camp, but tax increases need to have a solid foundation in fact to be the least bit palatable. A city without the amenities to which we’ve become accustomed wouldn’t be all that great either, nor would one that’s bankrupt. City government does not have a choice as to whether to balance the budget, and it’s a sure bet that cutting the $4,000 or so that was spent for the Mayor to go to the Paris Air Show isn’t going to close the $170 million dollar “challenge” that the city faces.
This could be a critical turning point in Jacksonville’s history. But as former President Bush learned with his famous “Read My Lips” line, one should never say never.