In an exclusive interview with Tallahassee Reports, Steven Slade, the President of the Big Bend Chapter of the Florida PBA, voiced his frustration with City officials and their portrayal of the property tax increase in the local media.
On Sunday the Tallahassee Democrat published an editorial asking the City to reconsider the proposed property tax increase.
The editorial was based, at least in part, on an interview session with top city officials and Mayor Andrew Gillum, a day before a 3-2 vote to move forward with a 23% increase in property taxes.
However, it appears the City has doubled down on the argument that public safety is the reason for the property tax increase and the Tallahassee Democrat seems to have accepted that argument.
“The City Manager has known for years that we have had manpower issues at the police department. She and some Commissioners chose not to act until crime statistics forced their hand and now they want to blame the tax increase on our collective bargaining agreement” said Slade.
“At no time during the months of negotiations did the City Manager or any City Commissioner say they would have to raise the millage rate to support our current agreement” said Slade.
Slade continued “and now the City is throwing around numbers and some people print them before getting the facts.”
The numbers Slade is referring to is the amount of public safety dollars the City claims is part of the proposed tax increase and the amount for raises and pensions.
On July 5, 2015 the Democrat reported the “increased property tax rate would generate $9.2 million annually. City Budget Manager Heath Beach said nearly $8 million of that would go toward strengthening the ranks of TPD.”
And in Sunday’s editorial, the Democrat wrote that there was “roughly $7.7 million in proposed increased spending on TPD” and added, “the majority of new expense for this tax increase isn’t additional officers, it’s paying raises to current staff and pension to all city law enforcement.”
Slade said “the $8 million number does not add up. The budget department is combining 2015 spending with 2016 increases so that the City can sell the tax increase as public safety.”
And based on the City Managers own words, Slade may have a point.
Back on June 16, 2015, before the reaction from the proposed property tax increase was in full bloom, City Manager wrote in her budget message to the Mayor and City Commissioners that the:
proposed operating budget totals $704 million, representing an increase of $6.7 million with 2/3 of the increase ($4.8 million) going towards new police personnel and capital equipment.”
The original numbers put forth, $4.8 million, are supported by the budget documents and not the numbers being handed out by the City to local media outlets.
For example, the General Fund budget for 2016 shows an annual increase of $3.5 million for police operations, which includes additional officers, raises, and pension benefits.
In addition, the capital budget shows a $1.3 million increase for police department equipment.
Again, these numbers are consistent with the City Manager’s original proposal.
Why the $8 million number now?
Steve Slade says, “the $8 million may be a political number. The PBA is not involved in the manpower request or the departments funding. That is the responsibility of the chief of police and city officials.”
“However, it appears the City has doubled down on the argument that public safety is the reason for the property tax increase and the Tallahassee Democrat seems to have accepted that argument.”
Thats what the reason they gave for shaking me down for a 300 dollar right on red traffic camera ticket.
The reason they gave for not renewing the contract was it didn’t make enough money. Not one word about public safety!
Our City is being run by a bunch of damn liars and crooks! All of them!
Maybe they can discuss this at the annual Chamber of Commerce junket in Sandestin over cocktails at the Buffalo Pool party.
Whoops. Looks like the “cat” just jumped out the bag and we may actually get a very overdue debate or discussion about budget priorities between now and the August date that the city commission has set. I fully support paying up for public safety but not hiding other line item expenditures under the guise of increasd public safety.
Great work by Tallahassee Reports on being the first to call this to the attention of the general public. I’m eagerly waiting to see if and when the Tallahassee Chamber board weighs in. I also give credit to the Tallahassee Democrat even if all the facts they published were not spot on for “challenging the status quo” when of doing theings in Tally. Two cheers to the new publisher and editor of the Tallahassee Democrat.
Per the Democrat, the chamber is monitoring the situation. People’s over priced dues at work!
Nothing they do has anything to do with public safety Howard. They have turned Tallahassee into the Ok corral and are giving themselves raises for it. Our quality of life goes down while they get raises and more of our money. Period.
My parents live In Fairfax county Virginia, their house is twice as big as mine and their utility bill is half of what mine is every month. Keep in mind,Fairfax is one of the most expensive counties in the country to live in.
The entire property tax hike debate needs to reframed.
The term “PUBLIC SAFETY” tax is nothing more than an public relations attempt to market a PROPERTY TAX under a more acceptable pseudonym.
If we take all the new spending in the 2016 budget including new subsidies for new Star Metro losses ( which is $7.8 million since technically 2015 losses have already been counted and all losses for 2016 are computed beginning January 1, 2016 when the first ticket is sold), new raises for non-law enforcement employees, new software, new parking for employees, and all new capital budget expenditures, etc., then all new money for law enforcement represents far less than 50% of all new money.
The commission has the ability to reallocate all new money to pay for more law enforcement spending without imposing a higher “PROPERTY TAX.”
I tried to initiate a formal petition to voice the opinions of People and no one cared to unite on one official statement to the City of TLH., it called for accountability and Re-training with the officers that they currently have, not additional ones like them. This news now supports my theory that the numbers never added up on the City Budget but talking to any of the Commissioners or the City Mayor is like trying to correspond with a brick wall. They have their minds made up, some of the money is probably already spent. Oh well. Find another way to let your voice be heard, I removed the petition for lack of G.A.S.
– Former caring citizen
Petitions usually are a good thing, except with these yahoos. Every citizen in Tallahassee could sign it and it would have zero impact. The only way to make a difference is at the polls.
If any good comes out of this, I believe this has woken a lot of people up and made them aware of their mistakes at past elections.
We need to change the entire culture of City Government starting at the top.
Manager and her minions have to go and then Voters, we must clean out that rank city commission. The only interest they represent is their own.