Gainesville officials this week indicated that if the city commission doesn’t vote to increase property millage rates, tax revenues will decline by about $700,000 in the next fiscal year; a sign that declining property values will finally take a bite out of the city budget.
If that’s the case, Gainesville certainly won’t be alone. A USA Today analysis released on Tuesday found that, five years after the housing boom went bust, property tax revenues are only just now beginning to decline for many school districts and local governments. http://usat.ly/ySo9v2
states have complex laws that make property tax declines rare, small or long-delayed, even when home values plummet,” USA Today reports. “This makes the property tax stable during economic turmoil, unlike the income or sales tax.”
This year, cities, counties and school districts around the nation collectively experienced a 0.9 percent reduction in property tax collections (when adjusted for inflation). “That’s the first time property tax collections have fallen below the inflation rate since 1995 and only the third time in 40 years,” USA Today notes. “If the downward trend continues, property taxes may actually bring in fewer dollars this year than last even before adjusting for inflation. That hasn’t happened since the Great Depression.”
Many cities, counties and school districts have already begun to lay off workers, cut services and otherwise slash their budgets in response to a weakening economy, anti-tax politics, state budget cuts and other factors. If USA Today’s analysis is correct, local governments are in for still more hard times ahead, even if the economy begins to turn around.
GAINESVILLE – The City of High Springs’ proposed takeover of management of Poe Springs Park has been delayed, as a result of a construction issue over the park’s steps.
The matter was presented to the Board of Alachua County Commissioners on Tuesday by High Springs Vice Mayor Bob Barnas. Barnas said the delay is due to a permit issue with the completion of the steps.
During a Feb. 14 meeting, Barnas said construction was moving along and the city anticipated completion.
The commission appeared prepared to make a final vote on the agreement between the City of High Springs and Alachua County until the construction issue was presented by Barnas.
Although Barnas said the city wants to move ahead with the plan, the county commission opted to delay action on the agreement since a firm date for completion of the steps is unclear.
The Poe Springs Park agreement would place the City of High Springs in charge of day-to-day operations of the park such as daily staffing and maintenance. According to the agreement, the park would be open Wednesday through Sunday, with Wednesday and Thursday being free admission days. On Friday, Saturday and Sunday, High Springs will be charging $5 to $8 per vehicle, and $2 for individuals for entrance into the park.
The Alachua County Commission delayed the final vote of the agreement until the construction issue is resolved.
In amplification of earlier articles and letters, Thomas Hawkins, on March 12, wrote of the need for bus rapid transit. To me, his argument served only to support the need for regularly scheduled transit.
Instead of spending millions of dollars creating dedicated lanes for BRT, start a Regional Transit System test bus service to outlying communities. With our current buses, or perhaps leased additional, run one or two buses dedicated to providing non-stop transportation between Archer and Shands/VA morning and evening.
If successful, other commuters will undoubtedly want their buses from Hawthorne, Newberry and Alachua to (probably) one of the medical complexes in Gainesville. If successful, Alachua County will surely recognize the benefit to contributing to RTS.
Russell Henderson, Gainesville
The Florida Agency for Health Care Administration has a problem. It can't seem to accurately bill the state's 67 counties for Medicaid expenses incurred by county residents.
Alachua County officials, for instance, contend that due to computer errors and the fact that Shands — Florida's largest “safety net” hospital — is located here, this county has been erroneously billed by AHCA to the tune of about $11 million over the past five years.
Now the Florida Legislature has stepped in to “solve” this problem. Not by requiring the AHCA to fix its billing problems, but rather by ordering the counties to pay 85 percent of their unpaid Medicaid bills ... whether those bills are accurate or not.
If counties don't comply, they will automatically lose the equivalent amount of state revenue funding.
On top of the $11 million in past disputed bills, Alachua County may be forced to pay an additional $7 million this year alone, whether all of those charges are in dispute or not.
The injustice of that “solution” is obvious. We hope Gov. Rick Scott understands that and will veto the bill that mandates counties to pay for the state's Medicaid billing mistakes.
If he doesn't the Florida Association of Counties ought to be preparing some sort of legal response. The good news for counties is that the Legislature's track record in court these past several years has not been good; most recently a circuit court judge found the Legislature's “solution” to pension reform to be unconstitutional.
No matter how you cut it, forcing county governments to pay for the mistakes of a state agency is an unfunded mandate that must not be allowed to stand.
It's official, more staffing is needed at the Alachua County Jail.
A draft report prepared by an outside consultant was presented to the county commission.
TV 20's Duke Carter exactly who may be hired is still not decided.
"I hope this county can make an agreement."
Residents like Anderson were happy, Pulitzer/Bogard and associates recommended 34 employees be added to staff the jail.
"with considerable recommendations for some modifications." Because she wasn't happy that those new jobs would be staff by civilians rather than sworn deputies.
Despite some controversy over hiring an outside consultant, Commissioner Paula Delaney says she's comfortable paying for the 179 thousand dollar study.
"first of all I don't think there's enough staff for them to turn and do the in-depth analysis."
The consultants surveyed inmates and the public, to be more cost effective, they recommended hiring a part timer to monitor food services and more fully tracking overtime, and offering more specialized training.
"I think that reduction in overtime is especially in the past year is possible by product of this."
The consultants recommended 34 additional employees compared to the 46 that Sheriff Sadie Darnell wanted.
"there's come point when its time to hire more people."
But overall Delaney's comfortable with the findings.
"I think to bring an outside set of eyes that's going to be objective about things is helpful to everybody."
Before the meeting ended the commission wanted to consultants to come back and find out what is the core number of employees needed to keep a safe environment and would allow employees to take leave.
to view video.
A gas line break created some major headaches for alachua county animal services this evening.
The people at Animal Services tell us a bulldozer operated by Alachua County Facilities workers apparently hit the line while performing water line repairs on the Animal Services property.
NE 53rd Ave. was temporarily shut down while crews worked to resolve the situation.
Animal Services workers had to remove all the animals from the facility--although they remained on the property until a crew from Gainesville Regional Utilities could shut off the gas line.
No one was hurt in the incident and the animals have been returned to their places inside the facility.