Voice of the Voters, Jan. 27
Readers sound off about the candidates and the issues.
Published: Monday, January 28, 2008 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Sunday, January 27, 2008 at 7:25 p.m.
I support Jack Donovan for City Commission because he believes that citizens can play an important role in guiding Commission decisions. He is accessible, and he listens carefully to what citizens have to say.
We can't go wrong with Thomas Hawkins as our city commissioner. With his experience in land use law and a lifetime of growing up here, no one is better ready to help lead us to the achievement of our vision of this being the best place to live in the country.
As voters prepare to cast our ballots in Gainesville/Alachua County, I want to express my gratitude to one candidate for his service on the Gainesville City Commission. Jack Donovan is fair-minded and compassionate in his dealings with people and issues. Jack acts with clarity for the greater good of our community. He has worked to improve conditions in the environment, neighborhoods, downtown and in our parks. He is committed to the well-being of our community as a whole and the way Jack shows his commitment is through positive action with an attitude of kindness and respect.
So, it's quite simple to act on what we know. Let's vote! Jack Donovan for Gainesville City Commission!
I am inclined to vote against amendment one. I believe that Save Our Homes (SOH) and portability, though laudable in their goals, unfairly apportion the tax burden. Homestead exemptions, on the other hand, encourage home ownership and have a less of an impact on the disparity between the tax responsibility of similarly-situated property owners. The amount of the exemption, however, has not kept pace with the reality of inflation.
I like the $25,000 personal property tax exemption, not because of the calculated $20 per month savings as suggested by Commissioner Long. Rather, because it helps small businesses who no longer will need to hire tax professionals, or allocate time for themselves, to inventory personal property, and then prepare and file forms to remit the $240 annual tax. Small businesses already have to file numerous federal, state and local municipal reporting forms as it is. And for many, the amount remitted is far less than $240, while the time and cost expended in filing the return is substantial.
It's too bad we cannot choose those parts of the amendment we like, and discard the rest.
I'm inclined to vote in favor of the amendment because I fear the message local governments will receive if it fails. They will see it as a mandate for business as usual. As our local city manager suggested, it will affirm the responsible manner in which our elected body currently stewards our tax dollars.
Whether that statement is true or not, our local government suffers from an appearance of incompetence as well as callous disregard for citizen's complaints. How many letters have demanded something as simple as traffic light synchronization? How many times has any local official written to explain why it is so difficult? Who does one call to report a malfunctioning traffic light? Perception is everything. Explain how you will spend money for roads and not for cameras on traffic lights, faux crosswalks, and more traffic-calming devices, and I'll gladly give you another nickel per gallon! That is, after I fill my tank in Marion County before I return to town.
The original reason for the Save Our Homes amendment many years ago was to help senior citizens keep the homes that they had owned for many years from having to be sold due to rising real property taxes. Many seniors are on fixed incomes. As property values rise, even if the millage stays the same, the tax burden increases. Seniors were forced to sell the homes that they may have raised their families in; or had to leave the neighborhoods of their family and friends. To change this problem the Save Our Homes amendment was passed, which states that the value of one's homestead property could not rise greater than 3 percent per year.
The amendment was a great success in that it corrected the problem addressed. It didn't create too much of a tax flow problem to the taxing districts (cities and counties), however, because it wasn't portable. If a home owner changed homes, they would have to pay taxes on the new home's actual value for the first year, but in following years the value could rise no more than the 3%.
However, over time, taxing districts which rely upon property taxes to operate had to make up the difference in "lost revenue" by looking elsewhere. Taxes on real property used for business purposes and on business property, such as desks, shelving, etc., were looked to more and more to make up the difference. By looking to businesses for the additional revenue the taxing districts made it more difficult for businesses to make a profit, or even for the small business to open in the first place.
The new amendment, if passed, will be counter-productive. Will the counties and cities be faced with lover revenues? Yes, but not for long. Are there always some services that a resident could live without? Yes, but not many of them. Consequently the tax revenue lost will have to come from somewhere. Alachua County just passed an extra penny per gallon tax on gasoline. How would you like an additional 5 cents? The County charges an extra quarter cent per dollar sales tax. How would you like an additional 6 cents?
Is it nice to know that, if you sell your home you can take a portion of the reduced tax value with you? Sure it is, but do you want to make up the difference by paying taxes that are not deductible on your income tax return? While it is nice for the local mom and pop store to have a $25,000.00 exemption on their business property, is it fair for mega-retailers to get that same $25,000.00 on every store that they have in the county? Who can better afford to make up the lost revenue: you or CVS?
If this amendment is so bad, why is Gov. Charlie Crist so in favor of the amendment? Because the vast majority of the tax revenues used by the State come from sales taxes and specialty taxes that are not effected by the amendment. He will be able to sit back, say he cut taxes, and not suffer from it at all! So you can vote reasonably and intelligently against the amendment, or you can do what Scarlet O'Hara did and "think about it another day."
Commissioner Jack Donovan is innovative, thoughtful and readily accessible. He is ready to engage in dialogue with any individuals or groups and open minded to new ideas. Please re-elect him to the City Commission
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