Tax Cuts Discussed - at Lush Resort!
ORLANDO - Florida officials from area counties have been warning the public that the proposed property tax cuts will come with a drastic cutback in services. County officials say there is no fat in local government and they don't know how they can get by with less money.
But that didn't stop members of the Florida Association of Counties from meeting at the lush Renaissance Orlando Resort at Sea World - on the same day the special session started.
Craigin Mosteller, of the Florida Association of Counties, says it's a coincidence, and just bad timing that the special session was scheduled during the group's 78th conference.
But it is no coincidence. They canceled the golf tournament that was scheduled for this conference -- they thought it was bad form to cry poor and then play golf. And the Waste Management-sponsored "Death by Chocolate Party" has been scaled way back; county officials thought it would be tough to educate the public about how they are going to suffer, while they were dripping in chocolate.
Over the next three days, the meetings will devote plenty of time to trying to educate the public. The taxpayer-funded Association has put out a 22-page pamphlet as a tool kit that some say is full of scare tactics. "We're very concerned the cuts to the local counties are going to be real and severe," says Mosteller.
The association tells counties how to package their story, reach out to the media, and provides template speeches with places to insert local content. It also supplies a list of potential service cuts.
Most taxpayers however, say they just want lower property taxes. "They've increased at such a rate, it's hard to justify living here," says homeowner Whitney Horiszney.
Some say it is hard to justify sending so many county officials to the conference. In Pinellas, nine people registered for the conference, to show support for Pinellas Commissioner Susan Latvala, who is president. The cost to send them to the Rennaissance is more than $5,000 in tax money. Hillsborough will spend close to $4,000 in tax money to send four people.
Most commissioners won't arrive until Tuesday night because they are in Tallahassee. Those who did arrive early say the taxpayers are getting their money's worth, even though some counties are spending a lot of money to send people to the conference.
Gulf County Commissioner, Bill Williams thinks, "It is it is critical and my citizens understand we have to have the knowledge of what is going on in the legislature."
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