INDIAN ROCKS BEACH - Mayor Bill Ockunzzi has sent an extensive letter to Lt. Gov. Toni Jennings reviewing the crisis growing in tax methodology.
The letter is dated last Friday and addresses Jennings as the chairperson of the Property Tax Reform Committee.
Citing what he calls the "inequities and excesses in Florida's property tax system," Ockunzzi points out in the letter that the methods used by county property appraisers, although in conformance with the law, favor the maximization of property valuation.
Of course, this results in greater revenues to the taxing authorities and increasing outcries from taxpayers. More and more, talk grows of a tax revolt.
Ockunzzi emphasized to Jennings that the Legislature needs to revise the law relating to methods used in assessing the valuation of property.
He pointed out that taxes which are rising "too high and too fast" are having a "considerable adverse impact on just about every group of homesteaded and non homesteaded taxpayers."
Ockunzzi goes on to list the problem areas resulting from the current evaluation and millage rates - "unconstrained local government spending (especially by counties and large cities); unfunded mandates imposed by state, county, regional governments; dubious property tax subsidies and abatements; unbalanced and unfair distribution of property tax revenues caused by failing to reinvest at least a portion of revenues into the communities from which taxes were collected; and assessment methodologies and criteria that punish property owners to maximize government revenue."
Ockunzzi's letter advised the lieutenant governor that his city was part of the barrier beach communities that make up about 3.5 percent of Pinellas County's population but collectively pay 12 percent of the ad valorem taxes collected by the county.
This contrast of population and taxes is a constant theme sounded by Ockunzzi. He thinks it is manifestly unfair and pointed out in the letter as he has on many occasions, that these beach cities are the reason more than 95 percent of tourists visit Pinellas County.
There is no other significant attraction in the county, yet the beach cities are treated as the droopy drawers mendicants at the back door. Ockunzzi didn't say that, but that is the import of the figures he cites.
He did say in his letter, however, that the county government "does not reinvest tax dollars collected from our citizens and businesses back into the engine, tourism, that they say drives the county's and west central Florida's economy."
These are some of the suggestions Ockunzzi offered to Jennings for helping to solve the dilemma in property taxes and their implementation -
Enacting a valuation cap for non-homesteaded properties; not allow portability of the homestead exemption for many complex reasons; establish more cogent rules and guidance to county property appraisers; eliminate certain specific sales tax exemptions and use the savings to fund property tax relief; stop abatements as an enticement to developers; require super majority votes among all taxing authorities to increase millage rates.
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