Stewart: City Should Avoid Property Tax Increase, Address Violent Crime

Stewart: City Should Avoid Property Tax Increase, Address Violent Crime

The City of Tallahassee is late in the process of considering a property tax increase to fund additional law enforcement investments in fiscal year 2023-24. The increase – from 4.1 mills to 4.5 mills – will raise approximately $7.5 million in new revenue.

A 3-2 vote during the recent budget workshop indicated tentative support for the increase. Those supporting the increase included Mayor John Dailey and City Commissioner Curtis Richardson and City Commissioner Dianne Williams-Cox.

City Commissioner Jeremy Matlow and City Commissioner Jack Porter voted against the tax increase.

None of the city commissioners have provided a strategy to avoid a tax increase.

In my view, the city should avoid a property tax increase and address the increase in violent crime.

The Numbers

While the focus on law enforcement is needed, as violent crime continues to increase, the timing of a property tax increase could not be worse.

Higher prices are everywhere. Record high inflation rates has hit the monthly budget of hard working citizens on a daily basis with increased prices at the grocery store and at the gas pump. And for those not locked into a low interest rate, housing costs have sky rocketed. Even those with favorable loan terms have seen property insurance rates soar.

In addition, taxpayers will pay more for government services due to automatic inflation adjustments, there will soon be an increase in the fire services fee, and the recent creation of the Children Services Council tax is taking $8-$10 million a year from the local economy.

At some point the City of Tallahassee needs to acknowledge that these new taxes and fees have a real impact on every day life for a lot of people.

Many are asking, citizens have to cut back, why can’t the city?

The response by city staff – who has determined a tax increase is needed – focuses on two main points.

First, city staff notes that the increase is minimal – the increase for a typical household would amount to $7.49 per month, or $89.93 per year.

And second, the increase will address violent crime trends by providing the funding necessary to support 20 new police officers, competitive police wages, and advanced technology to address prevailing trends in violent crime. 

City Manager Reese Goad says he is more concerned with addressing the increase in the violent crime rate than the push back from a higher property tax rate.

Goad is concerned that if violent crime trends are not stopped now, Tallahassee may reach a point of no return. The recent double homicide lends credence to his concerns, as do the numbers that indicate violent crime continues to increase.

These points by city staff are but one perspective, it is the job of elected officials to balance the needs of the community.

The Politics

The progressive wing of the city commission has come out against the tax increase and has attempted to score political points with moderates and conservtaives. However, Matlow and Porter have not proposed any cuts to the budget and have not taken a position on the new spending for law enforcement.

In fact, Porter looks like a hypocrite in this debate. She original called for a a discussion about a tax increase, but now has changed her position and has refused to offer alternatives.

Are the progressives against the tax increase because it funds more law enforcement or are the progressives fiscal conservatives?

The responsible and revealing thing for the city commission to do is to provide options for the elected officials to consider. These options would be:

(1) a balanced budget with an increase in law enforcement and no tax increase,

(2) a balanced budget with an increase in law enforcement and a tax increase and,

(3) a balanced budget with an no increase in law enforcement and no tax increase

In my view, the city staff should take the first pass at a balanced budget without a tax increase by mixing the use of reserves and expense cuts to fund the needed law enforcement investments.

This approach will allow elected officials to ask questions, set priorities and lead to a community discussion.

Next Steps

There is plenty of time for elected officials to hear concerns and recommendations from voters.

At the September 13 public hearing, the city attorney will read certain information into the record as required by state law. The tentative millage rates will be presented and the public will have the opportunity to provide input on the millage rate and budget for each entity. Motions for approval of the tentative rates and budgets will be moved.

Resolutions to adopt the millage rates and budgets will be introduced, but action to approve will not be required until September 27.

21 Responses to "Stewart: City Should Avoid Property Tax Increase, Address Violent Crime"

  1. @ Resident Since 1990 = I brought up the VIP Seats at the Doak to show how the City Commission wastes the Tax Dollars. If they managed their Budget better, they wont need to raise Taxes.

  2. Yes, David Hawkins.
    End the worthless, self-serving CSC boondoggle.
    Here’s another idea:
    Smaller buses for the night routes, because they use less fuel. Most of them are 80% empty at night.

  3. Welcome to TAXahassee, fresh fish! If you like Kalifornia, Illinois and New York, you’ll love it here!
    Our local Marxicrat Commissars are like diapers: they have to be changed often, and for the same reason.

  4. I am so thankful we moved away from this corrupt city. Its nice to have one Commissioner. The people that have moved to our quiet little town (mostly) from Florida want a 5 commission board. Its not going to happen, we do not want what you all moved away from. Thanks but no thanks the locals are happy with what we have! This will never happen in Tallahassee, it has been like that since we moved there in the early 1990’s.

  5. The FSU football stadium has nothing to do with the proposed property tax increase (full disclosure: I surrendered my FSU season ticket seats when my kids graduated and moved away in 1999).
    There is absolutely no justification for a property tax increase. Tax revenues automatically increase because property values have increased (and this a tax increase by default).
    Residents who do not OWN property (renters) pay nothing because they don’t own. Are landlords passing along the tax?
    I would never vote to defend the police.
    More money will not reduce crime.
    Social engineering doesn’t work. Arrest and prosecute the criminals!
    Stop reacting the damn political correctness mentality!
    ALL our citizens want to feel safe so stop the fearful tiptoeing around the issue and put the violators in jail.
    We have the resources to do that now!

  6. 3 commissioners are raising our taxes: Curtis, John, and Dianne. Jack will get re-elected on her record including opposing this terrible tax increase, Curtis will struggle and probably lose

  7. She states that the People want more services and then a few paragraphs down is this paragraph = “Porter stated that the new services that she would like to see include light snacks at city commission meetings, a $15 minimum wage, a social worker for case management duties related to affordable housing, and more small city events at city maintained parks.”

  8. @David Hawkins (a fan here by the way)

    Just read but story doesn’t say that. She warned that if spending continues at current rates, a tax increase was likely which has come to pass. Check out the several recent stories where City mgmt and 3 commissioners vote Yes to raise taxes while Porter argues against raising taxes and votes not to. She has said why she doesn’t support raising taxes (raises costs, no one wants it, huge exec. salaries and wasteful spending should be cut first) so I don’t get why all the spinning on Jack when she has been solid.

    3 politicians are actually voting to raise our taxes. Attacking someone who isn’t, over what the others are doing, makes no sense

  9. @ NE Moderate = Just to let you know, TR did an article on this a couple Months ago, you can look for it. Porter DID actually brought up wanting to raise the Property Tax for two reasons, because she said that the City hasn’t raised them in a while and to also have Better Snacks during the Meetings. Yes, that did happen.

  10. @Tom Hooker

    Jack is against raising taxes. Curtis, Dianne, and John are for it, voted to raise taxes 3 times now. Try to keep up. City Mgr gets paid $274,000+, PBA raises bloated budget so much for their new Union dues it caused a budget deficit. Same three voted for $27 million Doak blueprint giveaway. Talk about snacks!

  11. $7.49 a month. Peanuts. Right? City staff is self serving. Peanuts. Which is funny because Jack Porter suggested a Tax Increase so she could have better snacks at meetings.


  12. Thankful for Jack Porter and Jeremy Matlow drawing a hard line on tax increases. If the tax increase is defeated (highly doubtful), it will be because of their opposition.

    Matlow has proposed several major cuts including an entire worthless department (“Strategic Innovation” with a director who makes $140k/year), and both have opposed wasteful spending and opposed the City Management responsible for it.

    Matlow and Porter have also both opposed the 2020 CSC property tax hike, Dailey’s boondoggle.

    Even the PBA won’t come out in favor of this tax increase, despite their cops Union being the reason we will pay more taxes.

  13. “None of the city commissioners have provided a strategy to avoid a tax increase.”

    Here’s TWO examples: STOP WASTING OUR TAXES on things like $27 MILLION on 21 Doak VIP SEATS, $18MILLION on a Park. Stop Pouring Money into Programs that are NOT working.

  14. Sooner or later, the 53 percent that support the 47 percent will run out of money.

    Sooner or later you will realise the 47 percent totally dependant on government have NO DESIRE to become independant and self-supporting.

    Liberals provide the government dependant population just enough so they remain dependant.

    Street crime, selling/buying drugs, EBT dependant, drop out of school and have children out of wedlock that Grandmother will raise are a normal and acceptable way of life to the 47 percenters.

    All the money in the world will not make the 47 percent want to live like the 53 percent.

    Not to paint with too broad a brush. Many will break the bonds of poverty. But the government dependant population is growing.

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