County no picture of health

Published: Saturday, January 18, 2003 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, January 18, 2003 at 1:46 a.m.

I recently received my Alachua County services guide in the mail. What a pretty picture it attempts to paint.

The guide was full of information, graphs and photos. I was eager to dig in to find out where and how my property taxes are being utilized.

I did not see any information on the huge upcoming budget deficit reported by The Gainesville Sun, only feel-good pieces with phony numbers that were skewed to make Alachua County look fiscally sound.

Nice try. What I did discover was Alachua County has the lowest percentage of property on the tax rolls, as compared to 26 other counties. Are they bragging, complaining or looking for excuses?

I did not see a graph reflecting that in some areas we have one of the top per-capita property tax rates in the state. I did not see information on why there are no real sports programs in the middle schools.

No graphs listing parks in the southwest area of the county with ballfields and tennis courts. Oh, that's right, there are none, even though Haile Plantation residents and others in the area bear a huge brunt of the present tax load.

That's right; it always was more politically correct to keep pouring money into the east side of the county.

I moved here from Orange County in Central Florida, where I paid 25 percent less property tax for a comparatively valued home, and enjoyed good schools with sports in the middle schools and adequate park space.

Don't get me wrong, I love it here, the people are great and there is a strong sense of community, but the tax burden relative to the services available is unbelievably frustrating.

Two reasons are always given for the high property tax rates. The University of Florida property is not on the tax rolls and, there isn't a large or broad base of businesses in Alachua County.

I am not sure what can be done about the university, it is a huge community asset, but I think they can give a little more back. How about we set up internships for students working on their degrees in parks and recreation, physical education, and other athletic specialties and let them set up and run sports programs for the middle schools and have transportation programs provided by county buses?

Now taxes. Alachua County already has some of the highest gas prices in Florida, and there is talk of an additional tax? This is an easy one, it's called a budget.

I know many Americans don't know what a budget is, based on their huge credit card debt and lack of savings, but that is no excuse for county government.

You have to be fiscally responsible. If the county commissioners have a laundry list of expenditures, then they need to figure out how to fund these things without raising property taxes.

They need to be pro-business, remove the red tape and have fewer hoops to jump through. They need to try to attract businesses.

Believe it or not, some communities actually do this aggressively. Perhaps some of our 40 percent underemployed residents might find employment that pays a decent wage.

A smart family sacrifices to stay within a budget, so why can't government be smart, too? Some might say, "Hey, I like Alachua County just the way it is."

To those people I would say, a multi-million dollar deficit is not smart, healthy or responsible for a community - it's insane.

If you wake up every day, do the same things, the same way and expect the outcome to be different - that's insanity. The same is true for government.

So, let's live within the county budget, get something back from the university, expand business-friendly practices and maybe the pretty picture painted by the Alachua County service guide will be a more accurate one in future years.

Bob Rose can be heard every morning on News/Talk 97.3 The Sky.

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