Monday, 16 July 2007 01:00
Thursday, 12 July 2007 01:00
Monday, 09 July 2007 01:00
Wednesday, 04 July 2007 01:00
Thursday, 07 June 2007 01:00
FLoridians want significant tax relief but don’t want to compromise their quality of life. That pretty much sums up the results of a recent survey taken as the special legislative session aimed at property tax cuts approaches.
During the boom years of the mid 2000’s increasing property values led to a spike in property taxes – especially for business owners and part-time residents. And residents benefitting from the state save our homes amendment have felt trapped in homes that have been too large or small. Lawmakers listened and promise a fix, but county officials are wary. Charlotte County Administrator Bruce Loucks says taxpayers can’t have it both ways - tax cuts will also mean cuts in service.
“a lot people are going to be impacted different ways, for some people they don’t get – they don’t see the benefit they get from government services and that’s fine – those are the people that it doesn’t matter one way or the other what the impacts are however if you’re a person with children and you need parks and libraries then I think the impacts will be more significant. These impacts are going to be hitting different segments of the population differently"
Loucks says if lawmakers proceed as anticipated a resident of Charlotte County with an annual tax bill of 2000 dollars will see their taxes decline by about 380 dollars a year.
By law, counties are required to provide for the public’s safety – so those services would not be impacted. Other’s most likely will be. The special session starts June 12th.
County officials will have their sights focused on Tallahassee next week as state lawmakers begin a special session aimed at lowering property taxes. In a recent poll nearly all respondents said they want significant property tax cuts. But they also said they don’t want local governments to make up for those cuts by reducing services. Charlotte County Administrator Bruce Loucks says that’s wishful thinking.
"Government cannot reduce its revenues without reducing expenses . We collect 150 million dollars in property taxes from residents – 80 million of that goes to those constitutional offices – so half of the ad valorem taxes we collect we cannot impact – so for budget reductions to be made they have to come from the other half of the county sources that funds things like libraries and parks and some of those discretionary services."
The constitutional officers are tax collector, elections supervisor, property appraiser and clerk of courts. The state government also has final say over the sheriff’s budget. Loucks says there’s little fat to cut from Charlotte County’s budget – it’s spent millions over the last three years repairing infrastructure damaged or destroyed by Hurricane Charley in 2004.
Tuesday, 10 April 2007 01:00
A group called ‘Citizens for a Better Fort Myers Government’ – along with the American Civil Liberties Union - launched a petition drive yesterday...in support of an elected, civilian police oversight board.
The group’s goal is to get the 25-hundred or so signatures needed over the next 100 days and then request the Fort Myers City Council call a special election. The council voted down such a review board last summer.
The group’s chairman – Anthony Thomas, Jr. – says he thinks the idea will get wide support.
“I really don’t think this is a partisan issue…I’m a republican, the vice chair of my committee is a democrat. We have white members, we have black members, Hispanic members…this is an issue about government. In the last election – in 2006 – the voters in America voted for change, they voted for oversight. And I believe they’re going to do the same here in Fort Myers.”
The Executive Director of the ACLU of Florida – Howard Simon – was on hand for yesterday’s announcement.
“It is clear that this is an effort to go over the head of the city council. We were here back in the late summer when the council gave most of the day consideration to the proposal for an independent civilian review board, it failed. Although there has been some change in the make up of the city council here.”
Longtime city councilwoman Veronica Shoemaker lost her seat last week to former Fort Myers Police Officer – Johnny Streets, Jr. She’d voted against the civilian review board. He said during the campaign that he’d support such a board.
Monday, 09 April 2007 01:00
An innovative hurricane safety partnership between the Monroe County Tourist Development Council and Florida Keys emergency management officials was honored last week at the National Hurricane Conference in New Orleans.
The awards committee cited the proactive tourism hurricane safety program to communicate the need for visitor evacuations in the event of an approaching storm. It's the first time in the almost 30-year history of the award that a tourism agency has been honored. Former National Hurricane Center Director Max Mayfield praises the program.
"You’ve got to be proactive and it's really unusual to have a tourist development council like this be that proactive. Usually they do everything they can to keep the tourists there and to keep the tourist dollars coming in. But you don’t ever want to have that loss of life on your conscience there from a hurricane. One of the best practices - I use this as an example everywhere I go."
The program was developed in 1998. It features a communications plan designed to reach Keys visitors with information about impending evacuations. In 2005, the program was expanded to include information on hurricanes and safety plans for tourists before they even arrive in the Keys.
Monday, 02 April 2007 01:00
NASA will delay the first manned flight of the new spacecraft designed to take humans back to the moon because of budget constraints.
U.S. Senator Democrat Bill Nelson of Melbourne spoke last week at a Senate Commerce committee hearing on the future of human spaceflight at NASA.
The space shuttle program will be retired in 2010 and the next manned phase – called Constellation – won’t start flying until 2015. It’s supposed to eventually go to the moon by 2020. Because Cape Canaveral, Florida is almost completely devoted to launch operations, that gap in human flight is going to hit hard. Senator Nelson says that worries him.
“Obviously there’s going to be some loss of employment because if you’re not launching the vehicle you need less of a work force.”
Aerospace and mechanics’ workers unions are also worried about the potential loss of jobs. Nelson is now talking about trying to boost NASA’s 17 billion dollar budget to try and get the “Constellations” test launches to start earlier.
Tuesday, 06 March 2007 00:00
Governor Charlie Cirst says Democrats and Republicans working together will be the key to solving Florida's most pressing problems.
Crist held his first State of the State address today, telling lawmakers they can achieve anything if they put Floridians ahead of their political parties.
His lengthy list of goals includes bringing tax relief to homeowners, developing alternative energy sources, creating paper trails for elections and protecting the environment. He also says giving raises to the state's best teachers is a priority.
“Under our proposal we would increase teacher pay by 10-percent for the top 25-percent of our teachers. This represents a doubling of the current program, and will go along way toward keeping and retaining Florida’s best teachers.”
Crist said the first bill he wants on his desk is the Anti-Murder Act, which would force judges to jail violent felons who violate probation. It’s inspired by three Florida girls who were raped and killed by ex-sex-offenders -- Jessica Lunsford, Carlie Brucia and Sarah Lunde.
Friday, 16 February 2007 00:00
A group of state lawmakers will be at Florida Gulf Coast University tonight – to listen to homeowners concerns about property taxes.
The five-member Property Tax Reform Committee has been holding public hearings across the state since January. The intent is to listen to all sides before making any changes in how property taxes are accessed for both resident and non-resident homeowners. Committee Chair – State Senator Mike Haridopolis of Indiatlantic says so far he’s gotten an earful.
“the two primary things we’re hearing from voters thus far – one is assessments just don’t make sense, they are inconsistent across the state, let alone within communities – and the second thing we’re hearing is the fact that people basically believe government needs to go on a diet. government revenues on the local level are up 83 percent in the last five years whereas family income in that same time is only up 37 percent”
Haridopolis says the committee will make recommendations on how to more equitably distribute Florida’s property tax burden to the full legislature when it convenes in March. He says the next step in the process would likely be a constitutional amendment. Tonight’s public hearing at FGCU is from 6 to 9 in Academic Building 5 room 112 – directional signs will be posted.
Southwest Floridians frustrated by high property taxes have a chance to vent tonight at a public hearing at Florida Gulf Coast University. FGCU is the next stop on a state-wide listening tour by five lawmakers who will make recommendations for tax reform to their colleagues when the legislature convenes next month. State Senator Mike Haridopolis chairs the Property Tax Reform Committee. He says so far, he’s heard a lot from seasonal residents – miffed because their tax burden is so much greater than year round homeowners.
“if you are a Florida resident you are protected by save our homes, that prevents an increase going up more than 3 percent in a given year, so if you see that property tax reduction this year – I think a lot of those returns would go to those non-homesteaded properties – because bottom line is when they get that reduction they are going to save invest and spend right here in Florida which helps us all”
The Public Hearing at FGCU is from 6 to 9 in Academic Building 5 room 112. Directional signs will be posted. Additional hearings are scheduled for Orlando, Melbourne, Ft. Pierce, Chiefland and Port St. Lucie.