Approximately 95 citizens attended the Town Hall meeting sponsored by Tallahassee Reports last Thursday to address the City’s proposed 27% increase in property taxes. The meeting was held at the Killearn Country Club.
The Town Hall was held so that City Commissioners could provide information and take questions about the proposed tax increase.
City Commissioners Scott Maddox, Curtis Richardson, and Gil Ziffer attended.
Commissioner Nancy Miller first committed to attend, but cancelled two days prior to the meeting without explanation.
Mayor Gillum never responded to our invitation.
Also in attendance was Police Chief DeLeo and the City’s budget director, Heath Beach.
The meeting began with the City Commissioners stating their positions on the proposed tax increase.
Commissioner Maddox was clear in his opposition and vowed to try and balance the budget without an increase.
Commissioner Ziffer was also against the 27% increase, but felt that some increase would be needed.
Commissioner Richardson spoke in support of the increase.
The questions and answers lasted just over an hour and revealed a number of interesting facts.
First, those in attendance were overwhelmingly against the proposed tax increase.
The concerns of the citizens that were most often mentioned revolved around pay raises for non-public safety employees and the view that a $700 million budget could be cut by $9 million, the amount to be raised by the tax increase, without affecting services.
Commissioner Richardson responded by saying the City was very well run and that the City Manager had successfully guided the City through tough times.
Second, the current City budget process is not conducive to effective oversight by elected officials.
Commissioners Maddox and Ziffer voiced concern over their inability to get at the details in the budget and therefore make recommendations about changes.
Third, the debate about how much of the tax increase is needed for public safety was not resolved. The City staff is telling local media that close to 80% of the increase, about $8 million, is for public safety.
While Commissioner Richardson echoed those comments, Commissioner Maddox disagreed with that assessment when he said that he thought their were opportunities to find the additional $2-3 million needed for the public safety without a tax increase.
Fourth, while all three Commissioners seemed supportive of pay raises for general employees, it was an item that they seemed open to scaling back.
And finally, attendees of the Town Hall provided concrete recommendations on how to avoid a tax increase.
Ted Thomas, a local business person, recommended a small increase ($.0025 per kwh sold) in electric rates, that would end after four years, to raise the funds needed for public safety.
Barney Bishop, a member of the NEBA board, a local business group, recommended that priorities be established by requiring City department heads to detail how they would cut 10% from their budgets. This information could then be used by elected officials to make the final decisions on what gets funded.
City Commissioners will next convene on Tuesday, July 7th at 9:00 am at City Hall for a budget workshop.
Based on the Town Hall meeting, many will be watching the actions of Commissioners Scott Maddox and Gil Ziffer.
The meeting started out okay, but when Curtis Richardson said, “The City of Tallahassee was very well run and that the City Manager had successfully guided the City through tough times” and the attendees laughed out loud at this. This is when Mr. Richardson exploded and yelled at the audience. He said something to the effect, “That’s not funny! If you are not going to show me any respect, then I’m out of here!”
The audience laughed because of his ridiculous statement and he showed us what he is, which is a spoiled pampered brat. Shame on you Mr. Richardson.
Take a hard, objective look at Tallahassee relative to the State of Florida. We have:
1. The worst crime rate in the state (Forbes Magazine recently put Tallahassee on the list of “America’s Most Dangerous Cities”). Murders and/or the discovery of bodies occur almost weekly.
2. The highest utility rate in the state.
3. As it now stands, we may soon have the highest property tax rate in the state.
Given the above conditions and the city commission we have (the same one that got us into this situation):
1. Why would any business or large corporation wish to locate here? Why would an existing one choose to expand or remain here?
2. How many individuals and families with the financial means will choose to invest their futures (and their incomes) in another Florida city? Several of my Killearn neighbors have already moved away, citing the increasing cost of living, taxes, crime etc.
3. How many families will choose other Florida universities and colleges to send their kids to? I certainly wouldn’t let my two daughters attend FSU now (as they did years ago) with the reputation for crime that Tallahassee has.
When the local economy slows to a crawl (as it’s now doing) and the enrollment at FSU and other schools begins to seriously decline, perhaps the electorate of Tally will wake up and realize we need better people governing the city. Tallahassee could be a wonderful place to live, but it’s destined to economic decline and increasing crime if it doesn’t change course, and soon.
Unfortunately, this is what we get when we keep electing the same type of people to “lead” us. Until we elect someone different, we will keep getting the same thing. Everyone who visits this website already understands this, but there aren’t enough of us. Those who can least afford a tax increase will keep voting for these knuckleheads. I wouldn’t be surprised if the City backs off and only increases the millage rate by a half of a mill, instead of a full mill. Then in 2 years, after the election next year, they will get the rest of it. Too bad everyone outside of this website doesn’t understand this or we would have 5 new commissioners as their seats are up for reelection.
Are any of the folks who have signed up to run for Scott’s seat any different?
Steve, please give it one more shot!!!
Jobs and housing sales down, less people own homes, people want jobs but many have stopped looking for them, cost of food and goods up, only thing less costly is fuel thanks to the Midwestern and southwestern states oil and gas production or PRIVATE lands, and cities and states run with unbridled “Let’s increase taxes and fees” mindsets going deeper in the red (just look at Detroit and California), and the like minded thinking of Tallahassee’s commissioners and city management want to pile it on instead of tightening the belt and reworking priorities. Yes, Tallahassee folks, elections matter. You get what you vote into office, over and over. Oh, yes, add to this the fact the State employee has had few raises in the last ten years, not just one or two. Has the city manager or mayor or any commissioner had a salary freeze like those poor folks, who some how have managed to continue paying these ever increasing city and county costs?
Yes, a few recalls are in order if such poor decisionmaking continues.
If anyone on the city commission, including the mayor, votes for this increase, they should be the subject of a recall petition within hours after the vote. Don’t let us forget that Gillum voted himself a $100,000 ‘deferred compensation’ benefit, in his early years as a commissioner.
What has this mayor done? He is great at releasing statements but that’s about it. Oh wait, he held a summit on children. I would not have expected anything different from Andy. He will not answer questions from anyone.
What a slap in the face from Miller. Especially since this was held in her district. Again, people are getting what they voted for.
Richardson is just a yes man for Andy and Anita. He rambled on and on and made no sense. His position that borrowing a small amount from the $50 million in reserves would damage their bind rating is insane.
I hope voters are paying attention. Unfortunately, the only way to make a difference is at the polls.
Ziffer said to expect a much different looking local government in the next six months. I sure hope so. My votes will most definitely reflect that.