Below is the speech I gave at the BOCC meeting on Oct 23, 2018:
The county just passed their 2019 budget, and there was no increase in the ad-valorum tax rates. But before we applaud this, we need to note that there was a huge increase in the amount of funding to be received under the non ad-valorum taxes. These non ad-valorum taxes are at the bottom of your tax bill, and include charges for street lights, storm water, and others. While there are statutory protections on how much the ad-valorum taxes can be increased, and have homestead protections, these non ad-valorum taxes have no such protections, and can be raised at will.
Included in non ad-valorum taxes are MSBUs, which are taxes on specific sets of property owners. MSBUs tax these specific owners at the same rate, so a home worth $50,000 is taxed at the same rate as one worth $500,000. This is a regressive tax, since the impact on low income citizens, those that can afford it the least, is much greater.
So rather than increase the millage on the county tax rate as a whole, the county uses MSBUs to target areas for this unequal and unfair taxation, and all without the protections afforded homesteaded taxes.
One current example of such an MSBU deals with the Gulf Harbors golf course. Two years ago the county conducted a vote for the community to decide whether they wanted to be taxed to help pay for the county to buy the golf course. After the vote was counted, the county claimed it passed, but a detailed audit by some of the homeowners determined that it did not pass.
Rather than try to reconcile this difference, a majority of this Board passed the MSBU anyway. That resulted in a lawsuit being filed to contest the validity of the MSBU. Two years later, that lawsuit is still very much alive. During that time, I personally have asked several times for this board to resolve the situation by simply conducting a new vote, and let the people have their say. Instead, the county chose to aggressively fight the lawsuit, at taxpayer expense. For 2 years, and counting.
I hope we have finally reached the point where the county is at last going to respect the wishes of the community, and repeal that MSBU. If this board wants to repeal this MSBU, and pass a new MSBU with a new vote of the community, I would support that.
If however, this board’s intentions are to repeal the MSBU, only to pass a new MSBU without such a vote, circumventing and ignoring the wishes of those that will be forced to be taxed for it, I can promise that not only will that be met with a new lawsuit, but a movement under way to get Tallahassee to put greater controls on this kind of abuse of MSBUs will get their poster child.