May 11 , 2007 edition of:

Community Update
A Report on the Activities of Alachua County Government

 

This Issues Features:

Property tax system - Not all disasters are natural
Governor Crist’s property tax proposal
SW 75 St. detour south of SW Archer Rd.
First ever Internet Tax Certificate Sale
County Update TV on Channel 12
Gainesville/Alachua County #1
County issues health advisory for smoke
Countywide Burn Ban Extended
What’s on Alachua County Talks?
Measles diagnosed at UF
Commission Meeting Highlights
Let’s All Get Involved - Alachua County Advisory Boards

 

Property tax system - Not all disasters are natural

Dear Alachua County Citizens,

Florida’s 67 county and 412 municipal governments are at a critical crossroads in the debate playing out in Tallahassee over how to reform Florida’s current property tax system. Some state leaders have cast local governments as the villain in this issue. Indeed, some proposals would impose state mandated caps on local government spending and cut billions of dollars that counties need to pay for critical local programs and services for our citizens. Governor Crist’s proposal would reduce our $125 million County Government General Fund by $31 million.

Citizens need property tax relief. Local governments are ready to assist in a careful, well-planned effort to reform the tax system. However, the answer does not lie in creating a second crisis through forcing cuts in essential county programs and services citizens depend on.

Counties provide crucial everyday support for Florida’s citizens. Proposed cuts will affect REAL local services such as deputies, fire/rescue, emergency management, social services, growth management, environmental protection, road maintenance, parks, animal services, veteran’s services, poverty reduction, waste management, just to name a few. Capital projects are in jeopardy This Commission has made historic strides in dealing with roads maintenance projects. Our history demonstrates that deferring capital projects, such as roads, geometrically increases future costs.

I want to share with you a letter from Alachua County Fire Chief Will Gray May to Senator Ken Pruitt, President of the Florida Senate. Chief May’s thirty-one years of experience, that includes day to day fire/rescue, wildfire suppression and hurricane response, brings clarity to the ramifications of the reckless, politically expedient, tax plans being discussed in Tallahassee.

I urge you to read Chief May’s letter. Click on the letter to read the full text.

In public service,

Randall H. Reid
Alachua County Manager

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Governor Crist’s property tax proposal

Florida Governor Charlie Crist’s recent property tax reform proposal entails rolling back local government revenue caps to 2003 levels, and a reduction in property taxes on the homestead over the next 2 years.

This “hybrid” property tax reform proposal would result in a reduction of Alachua County’s General Fund Ad Valorem revenues of $31,000,000. A breakdown of the impact is as follows: $19,000,000 roll back to 2003; $11,000,000 double homestead exemption; $1,200,000 Tangible Personal Property $25,000 exemption. This calculates to a 25% reduction to the County’s current General Fund budget.

While considering the magnitude of this proposal, citizens should also consider that 46% of Alachua County’s property values are already off the tax rolls, which has an obvious negative impact on the County’s millage rate.

The link below will open two charts and a spread sheet breaking down Alachua County’s current budget by State mandates, Constitutional Offices and other Board expenses. These underscore how difficult it will be to implement a 25% reduction to the programs/services that the Board has control over without significantly impacting the quality of life in Alachua County.

http://www.alachuacounty.us/assets/uploads/images/Communications/pr_images/FY08_Legislative_Funding_Issues_with_General_Fund.pdfs

For more information, please contact Suzanne Gable, CPA, Director of the Alachua County Office of Management and Budget at (352) 374-5262.

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SW 75 St. detour south of SW Archer Rd.

In conjunction with the rerouting of SW 75th Street south of SW Archer Road, the County is currently providing a temporary detour through the Brytan development until the completion of permanent connections to the existing roadway system. The detour began May 8, and is estimated to be active for the next 1.5 months. Message boards are advising motorists of the detour. This detour gives residents south of Archer Road direct access to the signalized intersection at Archer Road and SW 75th Street. Upon completion of the roadway improvements, residents using SW 75th Street South will have permanent access to the signalized intersection of SW 75th Street and Archer Road.

For more information, contact Lalit Lalwani, Alachua County Public Works, at 352-374-5245, ext. 243.

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First ever Internet Tax Certificate Sale

Alachua County Tax Collector Von Fraser is pleased to announce this year’s tax certificate sale will be held online. This will be Alachua County’s first ever internet tax certificate sale. Since there will not be a live auction, all bids will be placed by registered bidders on the certificate sale website http://alachua.taxsale.com . This site is jointly hosted by the Alachua County Tax Collector and Bid4assets. The bidding will begin Tuesday, May 15, 2007 and continue until the day of the sale Wednesday, May 31 at 9:00 a.m. EST. Certificates will be awarded to those bidders entering the lowest bids. The Tax Collector’s office will provide computers for registered bidders who do not have internet access and want to participate in the tax certificate sale.

The tax certificate sale process ensures that a majority of the 2006 unpaid property taxes are collected and distributed to the various taxing authorities, allowing for the continuation of services. Last year’s tax sale netted over $5.5 million in outstanding taxes from the sale of more than 4 thousand individual certificates.

Training for bidders and interested parties will be held Thursday, May 10, 2007 at 4:00 p.m. in the Jack Durrance Auditorium located in the County Administration Building, 12 SE 1st Street, Gainesville, Florida, (Alachua County Commission Chambers). Registration for training requires an RSVP to: cammie.talley@actcfl.org . Please RSVP as early as possible.

Please note that this year’s internet tax certificate sale will have a mandatory bidder deposit requirement. Since bidders will not be physically present the day of the auction, we are requiring a 10% pre-deposit of your total intended purchases. Since this is a new procedure for Alachua County, please see the website or attend training for detailed information regarding deposits, deadlines and bidding.

The delinquent real estate advertisement will be published in The Gainesville Sun May 15, 22 & 29. The advertising list is also available on the Tax Collector’s website for viewing or downloading.

To avoid a certificate being issued, property owners with delinquent taxes are advised to pay with cash or bank check at any of our three locations before 5:30 p.m. May 30.

For additional information regarding the tax certificate sale, please visit our internet sale website, http://alachua.taxsale.com , the Tax Collector’s website http://www.actcfl.org , or call Cammie Talley at (352) 374-5236.

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County Update TV on Channel 12

This month, County Update features Alachua County legislative Day, Yom Hashoah (Holocaust remembrance) in Alachua County, the Barr Hammock Ledwith Prairie Preserve, County Fire/Rescue Tips for the upcoming hurricane season, and Waste Watcher tips from County Waste management.

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Gainesville/Alachua County #1

Close on the heels of winning back-to back national championships in college football and basketball, Gainesville/Alachua County Metro Area has achieved another number one title as Top Metropolitan Area out of 400 throughout the U.S. and Canada, according to Wiley Publishing. The New Jersey-based publishers officially announced that Gainesville/Alachua County received the top ranking out of 375 U.S. cities as well as 27 Canadian cities and was featured in the second of edition of their “Cities Ranked & Rated.’

“We have certainly enjoyed the spotlight generated by the Gators championships and it is incredibly rewarding for us to receive recognition as a great place to live, work and play all in the same year!” said Roland Loog, executive director of the Alachua County/Gainesville Visitors Bureau.

The comprehensive 850-page reference guide, written by nationally acclaimed business writers and authors Bert Sperling and Peter Sandler, provides a comparative as well as a subjective analysis of each city based on 10 categories of: economy and jobs; cost of living; climate, education, Health & Healthcare; Crime rates; transportation; leisure; arts and culture; and quality of life.

“This is certainly an affirmation of Gainesville & Alachua Countys commitment to our master plan of managed growth and conscientious development,” said Loog. “This area continues to emerge as a diverse crossroads offering an array of nature, historic and cultural-based attractions, events, festivals, and museums for our more than 247,000 citizens and our estimated 8 million visitors alike,”said Loog.

For additional information go to the Alachua County/Gainesville VCB website at: www.visitgainesville.com or phone (352) 374-5260.

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County issues health advisory for smoke

Due to the fires both in the Florida and in Georgia, we are experiencing significant smoke and particulate matter in the area. The Health Department, in concert with the Department of Emergency Management, have issued a health advisory, which will continue to remain in effect until conditions improve.

The effects of smoke run from irritation of the eyes and respiratory tract to more serious disorders, including asthma, bronchitis, reduced lung function, and possibly death. Studies have shown that the fine particulate matter contained in smoke is linked with aggravation of existing respiratory and cardiovascular problems. The extent of the health problems are linked to the level of exposure, age, individual susceptibility, and other potentially associated factors.

Individuals with asthma, cardiovascular disease, the elderly, and children, should restrict their outdoor activities at this time. Children, even those without preexisting conditions, are considered a sensitive population because their lungs are still developing. Of course, those individuals that smoke are susceptible due to decreased lung function.

Given the nature of the winds we’ve been having, and humidity, the smoke make dissipate, lessen, or disappear, only to return very quickly as conditions deteriorate. Citizens are asked to use personal observation and access to information about prevailing fire and weather conditions to best evaluate the smoke hazard.

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Countywide Burn Ban Extended

After reviewing Alachua County’s latest wildland fire conditions and our area weather forecast, Chief Will Gray May, Jr., Alachua County Director of Emergency Services, recommended extending the current countywide outdoor burn ban. The extended ban, which originally went into effect by County proclamation at 1:00 p.m. March 26, 2007, will continue until formally terminated by a majority of the Alachua County Board of County Commissioners.

The ban was originally put into place because of a combination of an extended period without precipitation, daily ‘red flag’ weather conditions (warm, low relative humidity, gusty winds) that contribute to the potential for extreme wildland fire behavior and an abundance of easily ignitable fuel (freeze and frost-killed vegetation left on the ground from the winter months). As the ban moves into its second month, this combination continues to create extreme conditions that are conducive to wildfires. Until a significant improvement in these conditions occurs, the countywide burn ban remains a necessary safety precaution.

The mandatory burn ban affects all of Alachua County, including rural and municipal areas. All outdoor burning activities are illegal under a burn ban with the exception of burns authorized by the Florida Division of Forestry on a case-by-case basis. Authorizations for commercial land clearing pile burns and acreage burns are considered on a case-by-case basis based on weather conditions and location. For information regarding the authorizing of these types of burns, please contact the Florida Division of Forestry (352) 955-2010.

The countywide mandatory burn ban prohibits all of the following:

*Please note that the ban does not affect agricultural burning authorized by the Florida Division of Forestry for land clearing or prescribed burning purposes.

Although the use of LPG/LNG grills and charcoal grills is permitted, the public is encouraged to keep a constant watch for any stray sparks or embers while cooking outdoors. Due to the potential for accidental ignitions, the use of motorized equipment such as ATVs and dirt bikes is not suggested during times of high wildfire risk. Please bear in mind that lawnmowers, both push and riding, also pose accidental ignition risks. Citizens are asked to exercise extreme caution during the burn ban. Working together, Alachua County’s citizens and local fire suppression agencies may avoid a repeat of the 1998 wildfires which scorched 7,100 acres locally.

Any burning within the County will be in violation of Alachua County ordinance 86-1, section 10.08 and 10.09 and section 252.50 of Florida Statutes. It will be considered a second-degree misdemeanor, punishable by up to a 60-day imprisonment and up to a $500.00 fine. All County and municipal law enforcement agencies are authorized to enforce the ordinance.

For more information, please contact ACFR Public Information Officer Megan Crandall at (352) 494-8600.

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What’s on Alachua County Talks?

Tune into Alachua County Talks on Community 12 Your Local Government Channel.

Alachua County Fire/Rescue Chief Will May talks about fire assessment fees.

Alachua County Health Department Director Tom Belcuore, M.S., discusses Mosquito Control and Bite Prevention.

To view show times click here: http://www.alachuacounty.us/government/depts/comm/schedule.aspx

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Measles diagnosed at UF

The Alachua County Health Department disease control investigators are working with University of Florida Student Health and others to stop an outbreak of measles in the community. An UF student was diagnosed with measles by the Student Health Center on Sunday, April 29 and further investigation by the Health Department have traced back four additional cases. These cases have been confirmed by laboratory methods for the disease. There have been no new cases since April 29.

Measles is a highly infectious disease that presents in two distinct phases. Initially, the disease is respiratory with onset of high fever, cold symptoms, cough, and conjunctivitis. The rash appears several days later and starts at the hairline and progresses downward. Persons with measles are infectious from 4 days prior to and after the appearance of the rash.

The most effective method to preventing this disease is vaccination. These are the first cases in the county in over 20 years due to the vaccination programs. In addition, persons born before 1957 are considered immune.

Health officials are working closely with UF. Officials have conducted vaccination clinics in the primary affected population. Non-vaccinated individuals and persons with compromised immune systems should consider not attending gatherings at this time. In additions, persons who are ill with these symptoms should seek medical attention from your provider.

Health Director Tom Belcuore stated, “We believe that with community support and the surveillance methods we have in place, additional cases can be identified and we can end this outbreak quickly. We will continue to monitor through the end of May for the emergence of additional cases.”

For more information about measles, contact the Health Department at (352) 334-7900 or 8888. UF students and faculty should contact the Student Health Center at 392-1161.

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Commission Meeting Highlights

Presentations, Proclamations and Recognitions

Community Services Group

The Board approved the Poverty Reduction Advisory Board recommendation and directed staff to develop a draft interlocal agreement with FloridaWorks pursuant to the County providing promotion and encouragement of use of the new ride sharing - car pooling system by citizens of Alachua County. Authorized the County Manager to execute the interlocal agreement contingent on review and approval by OMB and the County Attorney’s Office.

Recommended Action: The Board approved the that SHIP Award Agreements for Home Repairs with the City of High Springs, Alachua County Housing Authority, Neighborhood Housing and Development Corporation, and Central Florida Community Action Agency: request to authorize Chair to sign four agreements. Amount: $650,000.00 in outside grant money

Advisory Board & Committee Appointments

Planning Commission

Board of Adjustment

Recreation & Open Space Advisory Committee

Victim Services & Rape Crisis Center Advisory Council

Community Agency Partnership Program (CAPP)

Alachua County Historical Commission

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Let’s All Get Involved - Alachua County Advisory Boards

The Alachua County Commission is committed to citizen involvement on its 33 advisory boards and is soliciting applications for the following vacancies:

Get Involved - Click here for an application: http://www.alachuacounty.us/government/bocc/advisoryboard.aspx

Applications are also available at the County Manager’s Office on the Second Floor of the County Administration Building, 12 SE 1st St., Gainesville. For more information, call (352) 264-6904.

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Thank you for your continued interest in County Government!

Community Update is produced by the County Manager's Communications Office.