In a public hearing that started at approximately 6:30 pm and lasted past 10:30 pm, 50 speakers let their voice be heard on Wednesday night at City Hall.
After patiently listening to all who asked to speak, the Tallahassee City Commission voted 4-1 to approve a tentative 13% increase in the city’s property tax increase.
The current rate is 3.7 mills. The new rate, if approved next week as expected, will be 4.2 mills.
The speakers included a number of citizens asking City Commissioners to spare any cuts to social services and to the parks and recreation department.
Another well represented group, Citizens For Responsible Spending, was led by Barney Bishop who presented the Commission a path to a “no tax” budget that included new revenue and spending cuts. The group previously presented their proposal in a press conference on Tuesday.
The motion to increase the property tax by .5 mill was made by Commissioner Ziffer and seconded by Commissioner Nancy Miller.
Commissioner Ziffer proposed using $2 million from the BP settlement and recommended other cuts to reduce the amount of the tax increase.
City Commissioner Scott Maddox, as he has promised for months, voted against the increase.
However, the big story beyond the increase in the property tax, was the criticism of the City’s budget process.
Commissioner Curtis Richardson proposed a citizens budget committee. He said the Leon County School Board had such a committee and he thought it would be helpful to the city moving forward and would provide a way for interested citizens to have input earlier in the process.
Commissioner Scott Maddox was more critical. His comments about the lack of review of each department echoed a common theme presented by critics of the tax increase.
Maddox said, “Before I would advocate for a property tax increase, I would want to able look a citizen in the eye and say that I looked at every last possible scenario to avoid it. I don’t think we’ve even come close to doing that as a government.”
See the video below:
“This Aint No Way to Run a Railroad”
One of the more entertaining and illuminating exchanges about the lack of a budget process took place between Commissioner Scott Maddox and Commissioner Gill Ziffer. Maddox started the exchange by saying “This ain’t no way to run a railroad.”
View Maddox’s comments below.
Commissioner Ziffer, clearly frustrated by the budget process, tells Commissioner Maddox “the train is leaving the station.”