Welcome to Alachua County, We have the highest property and sales taxes in Florida thanks to college students who vote for sales tax increases and then leave us to pay them.
Temporary residents should not be voting on local issues of taxation, and it is foolish to put such options on a referendum, trusting the fate of our county to the ills of democracy.
If three commissioners voted to block the proposed sales tax referendum, then there would be no sales tax on the ballot.
Three true conservative commissioners with courage and conviction could gut county government, reduce the millage and pave roads without AGENDA 21 guidelines, and the problem would be solved.
Virtually every county department is wasting money, and millions of dollars could be recovered, but it is much easier for bureaucrats to increase taxes again.Lloyd W. Bailey Jr., John Birch Society chapter leader
HIGH SPRINGS – Even though the City of High Springs budgeted revenue from Poe Springs Park for the 2011-2012 fiscal year, it appears that revenue will not be realized as the park will not be taken over by the city.
At the April 24 commission meeting, Vice-Mayor Bob Barnas updated the commission on the status of the park. He said there has been some difficulty revolving around the installation of steps leading into the springs. When the construction company removed the dirt, water continuously seeped through, making it impossible for concrete to be poured to create the steps.
Instead, a series of pre-fabricated steps that will interlock into place will be installed. This decision means the park will have to go back to Alachua County to ask for more money. It is estimated that the project could be finished by July.
The City of High Springs is unwilling to wait that long because peak summer season would almost be over by the time Poe Springs traded hands, reducing revenues the city would receive.
“They still want us to be willing to talk in the future,” Barnas said. “But they understand we’re under no obligation to do anything now.”
Barnas said Poe Springs Park will keep the city informed of developments.
The commission agreed not to move forward until the steps are completed. Commissioner Sue Weller requested that the city write a letter to Alachua County detailing why High Springs no longer wants to take over Poe Springs this year.
The City of High Springs recently hired Parks and Recreation Coordinator Karla Carusone, at least in part, based on the assumption that her salary would be covered by funds generated by the Poe Springs venture. Carusone is paid $14 per hour, which is approximately $29,120 annually. But her position comes at a total annualized cost of some $41,400 when calculating taxes, benefits and other employment costs. There have been no discussions concerning how the city will fund the recreation position now that the acquisition of Poe Springs seems unlikely.
A related matter concerns the fate of a golf cart which the city purchased for an estimated $1,700 under the direction of Barnas for use at Poe Springs.
The Alachua County Animal Services held its "Cinco De Meow" adoption event this Saturday.
The event this year included positive reinforcement trainers and a demonstration by the Gainesville Police Department K-9 unit.
Many local animal vendors were on hand and a bake sale was on site to raise money to pay for pet treats with Willy's Mexican Restaurant providing free refreshments.
to watch this story.
Advocates for CHOICES are attempting to put an initiative on the fall ballot to extend the life of that county program that provides health care assistance to working-poor residents. Meanwhile, county commissioners are talking about how to best allocate the $40 million remaining in the CHOICES account.
Deanna Davis, 6, received FluMist vaccinations at Glen Springs Elementary School in Gainesville, Wednesday, October 5, 2011.
One suggestion is to establish one or more trust funds to ensure that the remaining CHOICES money is spent wisely and well. A good candidate for such a trust fund is the Partnership for a Flu Free Alachua County, which each flu season attempts to immunize as many school children as possible as a proven means of preventing the spread of flu throughout the community.
A $3 million trust fund would allow the partnership to spend about $100,00 a year for school-based FluMist vaccines in perpetuity. It is an investment that would pay handsome dividends; if just 50 percent of the school population were immunized each year it would save the community about $3 million in flu-related health care costs.
That's an investment in community wellness worth making.
Just say no to new taxes.
We do not need any new sales taxes. We have the highest property taxes in the state, the maximum legal county gas taxes, extra millage school taxes and we had a big increase in the MTSU tax last year.
Tell our commissioners we want lower taxes and an accounting of where all the gas tax funds have been spent the past 10 years.
Mismanagement and lack of leadership has allowed our roads to deteriorate, not lack of taxes.
Also, tell them to stop all the handouts (CHOICES, charities lining up for general fund dollars).
Decent roads should be something we should expect and demand for all the taxes we currently pay.
Joe Dechristofaro, Archer
Alachua County doesn't do parks. Or at least not very well. So the county wants the city of Gainesville to take ownership of Forest Park, which makes sense since the city annexed the land around the park.
Mayor Craig Lowe says the city might do just that, but only if it also takes ownership of the county's Fire Station 19, which is located on Forest Park.
That probably won't happen, because Fire Station 19 is a revenue generator for the county; which is to say it makes money putting out fires inside the city of Gainesville.
Asking the county to give up Fire Station 19 would be like asking Wal-Mart to surrender market share to Target.
The only way Gainesville and Alachua County can justify operating competing fire-rescue enterprises that serve the same community is via a convoluted agreement whereby the county pays the city to put out fires in the county and the city pays the county to put out fires in the city.
In the past, that agreement has tended to work out in Gainesville's favor, cash flow-wise. But as a result of annexation, the "profit" advantage in the fire-rescue business rivalry has begun to show up on the county's ledger books.
In a rational scheme of local governance this community would have a single fire-rescue department. But taxpayers are obliged pay for rival fire departments because Gainesville and Alachua County are themselves rival providers of public services, with each government perpetually maneuvering for market share.
"I think consolidation of services would end the whole discussion, but we have been through that drill several times," county fire director Ed Bailey told The Sun this week.
He's right. Unification of our rival fire-rescue departments — and of our rival law enforcement agencies for that matter — would put an end to the expensive, convoluted manner in which public safety services are delivered.
But as long as our rival city and county commissioners can manage to keep straight faces as they assure constituents that the status quo is the most efficient and cost-effective way of protecting public safety — and as long as taxpayers swallow that fiction — unification will remain a non-starter.
By Stephanie Brown- WUFT-FM
Hotels are near occupancy and businesses are buzzing with families in Gainesville for graduation. Alachua County Tourism Development Director Roland Loog says the vibrant environment of the weekend makes it a profitable one for the area.
Loog says spring graduation used to mark the beginning of a quiet season, but summer sports and related activities are now keeping the city alive year round.
Listen to this story, click here
The Gainesville City Commission voted 5-0 to direct staff to develop a list of road and transit projects for the surtax proposed for the November ballot. There's actually two proposals forwarded by the Alachua County Commission...A 15 year 3 quarter of cent tax for the roads and 15 year 1 quarter of a cent tax for transit.
There were mixed feelings on the city commission today.
Commissioner Todd Chase believes now is not the time to impose a tax while Commissioner Mastrodicasa says this is an opportunity to fund projects they couldn't before.
The commission heard from staff about which projects, specifically bus rapid transit.
Commissioner Scherwin Henry says some of the projects can pass just as long as the commission is transparent about it.
"When the citizens are clearly informed, and they clearly understand, they will support it, the problem comes in when we're not upfront, and frank," Henry said.
They also voted to allow the City Manager and Attorney to discuss with Alachua County officials about the ballot language for the 1 quarter cent tax for transit.
Staff will go through the list of projects and present them to the commission on May 17th
to view video.
Florida legislators and Gov. Rick Scott can't say they weren't warned.
During the Legislature's annual session county commissioners throughout Florida protested legislation that seeks to make counties pay about $325 million in disputed Medicaid bills.
Commissioners and their statewide association argued that local governments should not be held responsible for the costs; they made a persuasive case that disputed charges for Medicaid, the federal-state health-insurance program for low-income Americans — which local governments help underwrite — were rife with billing errors or the result of fraud. The state is responsible for processing the claims and billing counties for their share of payments.
Yet legislators were not convinced or, more likely, they didn't want to pay the costs out of the state budget. So, the legislation passed and it was signed by Gov. Scott.
In 47 counties, including Alachua, commissioners voted to sue the state over the law, citing the errors and saying it contains an unconstitutional "unfunded mandate."
Last week those local governments and the Florida Association of Counties filed a lawsuit, seeking an injunction to prohibit the state from implementing the law and withholding state revenue.
The lawsuit cites examples of inaccurate or false billing.
"Alachua appears first on an alphabetical list of Florida counties," notes the suit. "For this reason, apparently, the billing system automatically defaults to Alachua's county code (01) if an applicant for Medicaid fails to identify a different code. As a result, the Agency regularly bills Alachua for services received by non-residents."
The state law calls for counties to pay 85 percent of the disputed costs; that hardly seems to be a fair share. Alachua County's share of the disputed costs alone could come to as much as $7 million.
The Florida Association of Counties contends that 26 percent of Medicaid bills processed by the state and then funneled to local governments for payment are inaccurate or fraudulent. A computer system installed in 2008 has widely been blamed for errors.
Unfortunately, taxpayers in Florida are on the hook for these costs, and for the expenses associated with going to court.
What's more, the magnitude and frequency of the errors show the need for dramatic improvements in accounting and greater emphasis on fraud detection.
Florida's refusal to hold itself fully accountable for Medicaid costs and its unwillingness to reach a principled compromise with counties is further evidence of the top-down approach Tallahassee takes toward "solving" disagreements with local governments.
Alachua County Transportation Planning Manager
Describe your current job including how long you have held the position:
I'm the Alachua County Transportation Planning Manager. I've held this position for about a month, actually. I was recently promoted from the Senior Transportation Planner position when my colleague Jonathan Paul left the county to pursue other interests.
How did you end up working as a transportation planner:
I started out working in land use planning but I always had a strong personal and professional interest in transportation. I've lived and worked in several different communities from the San Francisco Bay area to the Tampa Bay area, and I've seen firsthand the important link between transportation systems and land use and the impact that onnection has on quality of life. When the opportunity to move into transportation planning presented itself in Alachua County, I jumped at it.
What are some current key projects:
There are several significant transit-oriented development projects that are now moving from the planning stages towards construction including Newberry Village, Santa Fe Village and Springhills in the northwest as well as Celebration Pointe in the southwest. We've also had some inquiries about a project in the Eastside Activity Center along Southeast 43rd Street, which is very exciting. All of these development projects have significant roadway, transit and bicycle/pedestrian infrastructure plans that will connect them to the University of Florida and the other employment centers within the city of Gainesville.
Is there a particular project that stands out for you and why:
I would say the evolution of the Springhills project at Interstate 75 and Northwest 39th Avenue is the most interesting from a planning and community involvement perspective. When the project was originally proposed, as a retail and auto-dominated development in 2007, the county had to rent out the Santa Fe College gymnasium to be able to accommodate the number of people that were in opposition to it. After the project was denied at those hearings, the developer came back and has worked very diligently to design the project to be consistent with the community's larger vision. When it came back for a comprehensive plan amendment in 2010, as a transit-oriented development, there were just a handful of citizens in attendance, all speaking in favor of the project.
Oh my, come November, we are going to show our current representation exactly how we feel; from our county commission, our state representation, Congress and the President of the United States. Oh yes, we are going to show them, we’re going to elect leadership who will represent us and not expand government.
Really? So our newly elected take their place of leadership after all their campaign promises, and what do we get? Leadership directed by an established staff who will continue with their agendas, who will train and direct our elected officials which direction they should go.
That vision is no clearer than our current Alachua County government and our “lame duck” County Commission, Interim County Manager and established staff. A prime example occurred during a recent discussion at the County Commission meeting of the “Gas Tax Initiative” ballot proposal.
Our current County Manager claims we cannot just repair or repave our roads because of our current “Comprehensive Plan.” Remember, it’s our county staff who brought us our current “Comprehensive Plan.” Because of county staff’s lack ofcogitative thinking, their direction will keep us on track for failure unless they have more money to spend.
What should be the current topic of discussion from our county staff is the $2 million deficit for our 2013 budget and larger deficits for 2014 and 2015. Where is our leadership? The discussion for staff and our commission needs to be centered on reduction of services, staff and consolidation of offices as well as responsibilities.
We cannot wait for newly elected officials to take office, as our “lame duck” leadership shows no signs of cognitive thinking or leadership ability. I often hear the complaints about our local governments on local talk radio, but seldom do I see or hear the same comments made to the commission directly. Either get involved in the process or sit back and let the non-elected staff direct our leadership on a path of their choice and not that of “We the People.” Maybe it’s not our “lame duck” leadership that’s the problem; maybe it’s the lame citizenry not willing to get involved in our “We the People” process.
Terry Martin-Back, Gainesville