LARGO - The city is holding its millage rate at 4.2758, but Largo taxpayers will experience a minimum 16.8 percent increase in their property taxes in the upcoming year.
Because the gross taxable value of property in the city went up by 21.6 percent - more than three-quarters of a billion dollars, bringing the total to almost $4.5 billion - there will be an increase in what residents pay.
Last year, the City Commission, led by an initiative by Commissioner Mary Black that then Mayor Bob Jackson and Commissioners Jean Halvorsen and Andy Guyette joined, voted to set the millage based on the rolled back rate.
The rolled back rate is the millage needed to raise the same amount of money that was raised the previous year. It accounts, in other words, for gains in the property value.
Tax and spend members of the commission - Pat Gerard (now mayor), Harriet Crozier and Gay Gentry - under the sway of City Manager Steve Stanton, opposed the rolled back rate. They obviously like to have plenty of cash on hand to feed their spending appetites.
Jackson is now gone as is Halvorsen, replaced by Rodney Woods and Gigi Arntzen, elected in March.
To keep ad valorem income level, the city would use the rolled back millage rate for upcoming fiscal year 2007. That rate is 3.6587. The difference between what the commission is settling on - 4.2758 mills - and the rolled back rate is 16.8 percent, thus the tax increase.
And this is a minimum increase. Those who bought homes in Largo and are being taxed for the first time will pay far more. A lot of money will be rolling into the Largo coffers.
True, expenses invariably increase, but observers wonder at some of them.
There seemed to have been a decision to do away with the recycling trash collection. Largo and Clearwater are the only two cities in Pinellas County that engage in the foolishness.
Foolishness because there is a report out, unconfirmed, that material picked up as recyclable was not processed thusly at all; it was cynically dumped with routine trash.
In reversing the call on recyclable trash, Largo now plans to spend $750,000, $250,000 for each of three trucks for this operation, plus additional personnel and a "recycling manager."
The cost is going to be in the million dollar range when all is said and done.
But as long as the philosophy of some commission members, including the mayor, that "plenty more where that came from" rules, the spending will go on apace.
Then there is the monster raise Stanton seeks and each year there is the additional money that must be anted up for the Alan Zimmet enrichment program. The city lawyer's budget always seems to need a boost come August. Those items are not big money, but it's all money and it adds up.
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