County officially against amendment


Published: Thursday, January 17, 2008 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, January 17, 2008 at 12:14 a.m.

The Jan. 29 statewide tax-cut referendum is now officially opposed by the Alachua County Commission, which voted Wednesday to spend $21,500 to mail out a brochure explaining its position to county households.

Commissioners voted 4-1, with Lee Pinkoson dissenting, to officially state their opposition to the amendment in a campaign that will include the mailing, and information on the county Web site and newsletter.

In a separate 3-2 vote, with Pinkoson and Paula DeLaney dissenting, commissioners voted to spend the money on the mailing.

"I think we need to mail out a piece to households informing them of our positions and providing them with information on the amendment," Commissioner Cynthia Chestnut said.

But DeLaney countered that spending money on the mailing could add to the perception by some that the county has plenty of money in the budget without tax cuts.

"I'm still not comfortable doing a mail-out," DeLaney said. "People will be saying, Gee, if they have $20,000 to spend, what are they complaining about?' "

The amendment proposes to expand the homestead exemption and allow homeowners with Save Our Homes savings to apply it to a new house. It will also create an exemption for nonhomesteaded property and an exemption for business-tangible property such as furnishings and equipment.

County officials estimate they will lose about $10 million from the homestead exemption increase and $1 million from the tangible property exemption.

Gov. Charlie Crist and other supporters say the amendment will provide tax relief, revive a slumping housing market and force local government to curb spending.

Opponents, including cities and counties throughout Florida, say the move will give state legislators more authority over local government and lead to a drop in crucial services such as fire and law enforcement.

The only public comment Wednesday came from resident George Elmore, who said the amendment is complicated, difficult to understand and will do more harm than good.

"This is gibberish. I'm with you 100 percent on one thing - that this is a disaster, an unmitigated disaster," Elmore said. "There is a saying that a camel is a horse designed by committee. If this amendment were only a camel instead of a squiggly, alien, God-knows-what tentacled being, it would be one thing . . . As far as I'm concerned, advocate the heck out of (opposing the amendment)."

Cindy Swirko can be reached at 352-374-5024 or swirkoc@ gvillesun.com.

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