On Monday night, the City of Tallahassee officially presented the FY2017 budget during a workshop at Walker-Ford Community Center. At the same time, ten miles away, three citizen driven budget groups held a meeting of their own in City Commission Chambers and presented the “Citizens’ Budget.”
TR spent time at both meetings.
Citizens’ Workshop in City Hall
The workshop at City Hall was lead by representatives of the Budget Hawks, Citizens for Responsible Spending (CRS) and the Network of Entrepreneurs and Business Advocates (NEBA). Approximately 110 people were in attendance.
The groups presented their issues with the the City’s budget process and provided independent evidence supporting their concerns about the City’s spending priorities.
And while there was a fair amount of criticism aimed at the City by the presenters and the speakers, at the end of the presentation the groups detailed the “Citizens Budget.”
The “Citizens’ Budget” which was labeled as an alternative to the City of Tallahassee budget, called for putting money back in the pockets of all citizens in the community.
The “Citizens’ Budget” called for refunding $2 million to low income taxpayers, rescinding the 13% percent property tax and allocating $2 million to road improvements.
The group also provided details about where the savings would come from and promised to provide more detail as more information became available.
The City of Tallahassee meeting at Walker-Ford drew about 100 people, of which at least 30 were paid City of Tallahassee staff. There were 19 speakers from various groups seeking funding from the City including, St. Frances Wildlife, the Palmer-Munroe Teen Center, and North Florida Legal Services.
Two members of the Tallahassee Chamber of Commerce asked the City to repeal the City’s business tax. The business tax puts about $2 million in City coffers each year.
Also, two members of NEBA asked the City to roll back the property tax increase.
The City’s proposal raises close to $5 million in new fees and taxes and does not refund any funds to taxpayers. A detailed review of the FY2017 City budget can be found here.
Commissioner discussion after the speakers and City staff presentation addressed funding the Palmer-Munroe Teen Center ($180,000) and repealing the business tax ($2 million).
Also, Commissioner Ziffer addressed a request from Dr. Ed Holifield who asked the Commission to reduce the rent for the Neighborhood Medical Center since Tallahassee Memorial Hospital gets a property tax break from the City of Tallahassee.
Ziffer indicated he would ask City staff to find the money to implement Holifield’s request.
The City of Tallahassee will hold their next budget meeting on July 13th, 2016. At that meeting City Commissioners will vote on a mileage rate and review new information provided by City staff.
The Citizens’ groups plan on promoting their “Citizens’ Budget” as an alternative to the City’s FY2017 budget. TR was told no future meetings were currently scheduled.