LARGO -- Budget time has come again and with it the confusion over tax increases, millage rates and significantly, the "rollback rate," which probably presents a mystery to most taxpayers.
So when Commissioner Mary Black at the Largo City Commission meeting July 19 moved that the city adopt the rollback rate as its millage rate for the upcoming 2006 budget she actually threw a curveball at her colleagues.
Her motion got no second, most likely because other commission members were frozen into fear.
As a matter of courtesy on elected boards, seconds are almost always given to motions. Very often the seconder is not agreeing with the motion. The second is given so that the matter can be discussed.
If there is no second, the matter dies, and that is what happened with Black's proposal. Her colleagues wouldn't even give her the courtesy of a discussion -- this is what passes for "teamwork" these days on the commission, a topic that is much crowed about but seldom followed in reality.
Instead, the commissioners (with Mayor Bob Jackson absent) voted to keep the current 4.75 millage rate which they went to last year.
The rate is a sensitive topic in Largo which went about a dozen years, until 2004, when the rate jumped from 3.4 mills to 3.75 mills.
A mill translates into $4.75 assessed on each $1,000 of valuation, factoring in the $25,000 homestead exemption. Thus, owners of a house assessed at $100,000 by the Tax Assessor's office would deduct their $25,000 exemption and then pay $356.25 in local tax.
The rollback rate means the millage rate that would be assessed to raise the same amount of money equal to the previous year.
Largo's rollback rate is 4.2758 which means that Black was saying with her motion that the city could raise exactly the same amount of ad valorem funds in the upcoming year as it did this year with that rate.
If that course had been followed, the numbers say that adequate funds would be available. One big reason for that is that last year's tax rate was predicated on a budget that anticipated expenditures of $124 million.
The commission cut budget spending to about $120 million with no corresponding lowering of the millage rate.
While commissioners who refused to even allow Black's motion to be explored and preen themselves on "not raising taxes," in fact Largo taxpayers will pay more taxes overall in the upcoming fiscal year because assessments rose by more than 15 percent.
Taxable value of Largo property went up by $480,973,945 from 2005 to 2006. The value of one mill in terms of income to the city went from $3,036 to $3,500. So the city gets more income in the new fiscal year and that is derived from the pocketbooks of Largo taxpayers. Politicians like to predicate increases in terms of the tax rate; to wit, millage rate the same, no tax increase.
But in actuality the increase or not is based on the bottom line aspect of how much a property owner pays. If it is more this coming year than last year, that is ineluctably a tax increase.
By using the rollback rate, most taxpayers would have paid the same in FY 2006 as they did this year. And that is what Black was looking for.
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