LARGO - Largo's City Commission voted to set a millage rate of 4.2758 for fiscal year 2007, holding to the current rate but producing, nevertheless, a tax increase for Largo property owners.
Remarkably, the increase in taxable property in Largo went up by 21.6 percent, a real figure of $782,643,066 - that is, more than three-quarters of a billion dollars.
The gross taxable value of property in the city is almost $4.5 billion.
With a 21.6 percent increase in available dollars for the city to tax, it is hard to fathom why the city would need a tax increase.
That kind of increase in property values translates into a similar rise in revenues and if city expenditures are increasing by more than 20 percent something truly is wrong.
Even holding to the current year's rate of 4.2758 mills most taxpayers will pay more. A tax increase is whenever an individual pays more than in the previous year.
Commissioner Harriet Crozier, as wrong as wrong can be, chortled, "We're holding the tax rate," as if to indicate that taxpayers were receiving a break.
Commissioner Mary Black was the only one voting against the rate. She wanted an even lower rate.
As it is, the 4.2758 rate was last year's rolled back rate, and that had an interesting legislative history. Adopting the rolled back rate last year actually helped taxpayers' pocketbooks because it kept revenues at about where they were the previous year when the rate was 4.75.
Early on last year, Black advocated setting the rolled back rate as the FY2006 rate and this met with all kinds of painful shouts and hollering from the city administration and found little favorable receptivity in the early going.
But it gained strength and when decision time came, Bob Jackson, then the mayor, Jean Halvorsen and Commissioner Andy Guyette joined Black and the rolled back rate was set.
This, of course, set off the anger bug in three of the commissioners and it was announced that this drastic action would require a $1,160,000 cut in the budge.
When all was said and done, nothing drastic ever happened although the administration tried to frighten the populace, putting out a list of cuts that turned out to be inapplicable and erroneous. The so-called "cuts" were designed to sow panic among the citizens. And it did.
Those opposing a reduction in taxes last year and four square for a raise was the "Stanton gang" -- Pat Gerard, Gay Gentry and Harriet Crozier, inveterate supporters of whatever the city manager comes up with.
All three are still on the commission, Gerard now sitting as mayor, and the Stanton claque has bolstered itself with the addition of Commissioner Gigi Arntzen.
Were the commission to adopt the new rolled back rate - 3.6587 mills - it would approximate no increase in taxes. The rolled back rate equals that rate that would raise the amount of revenue equal to what was raised by ad valorem taxes the previous year.
With a 21.6 percent rise in available dollars to be taxed, the city is rolling in money to spend and the proposed budget indicates this, adding many personnel and all kinds of new recreation department wrinkles.
Largo's sachems continue the philosophy of "plenty more where that came from."
On the issue of supplementing the swollen legal payouts to Alan Zimmet & Co., the commission, in a classic smoke and mirrors show, now you see it, now you don't performance, turned its "no" vote of last week into a 5-2 approval to ship an extra $55,000 or so to Alan Zimmet, the city lawyer.
When the subject was before them last week and the commissioners voted no, Zimmet, in a clear case of conflict of interest (after all, the money is going to him and his law firm), said that a no vote did not mean no. And he said the item was continued.
Of course, that has brought a loud chorus of "Huh?" from observers, who are totally ignored by their elected officials.
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