Friday, August 11, 2017

Florida in focus: Watch your wallets – cities, county poised to collect millions more in taxes

By Watchdog News - August 11, 2017 at 08:35AM

Orlando Sentinel opinion: Watch your wallets – cities, county poised to collect millions more in taxes

As tax season draws to a close, it’s become clear that there are two main kinds of governments at play: The kind quietly collecting millions more next year and hoping you won’t notice, and the kind that openly and egregiously proposes to rip you off.

Only one city, little Mascotte, is giving its taxpayers a break by setting its rate to collect the same amount as last year.

The ones that hope you don’t notice how much more cash they’re getting include Lake County government and the cities of Clermont, Eustis, Fruitland Park, Groveland, Howey-in-the-Hills, Lady Lake, Leesburg, Montverde, Tavares and Umatilla. They’re staying with the same tax rate as last year, which will bring in tons more money because assessments have gone up.

The ones poised to stick it to taxpayers are the cities of Mount Dora, Minneola and Astatula. Those cities, if they simply kept the same tax rate, would see increases of 7 percent, 16 percent and 5 percent, respectively, and for the same reason — the value of property rose.

Florida Times-Union: Sheriff Mike Williams scuttles Jacksonville’s red-light camera program

Williams discussed his intentions to dismantle the city’s network of red-light cameras Thursday to the City Council Finance Committee during its review of the Sheriff’s Office’s proposed $410 million budget for next year.

The committee also discussed Mayor Lenny Curry’s request to hire 80 more police officers next year, a key part of his and Williams’ plan to reduce violent crime.

Council members had a number of questions for Williams about how and where the new officers would be deployed. They held off approving the hiring request until Williams returns with answers later this month.


Tampa Bay Times: Highway safety chief: ‘Quotas have no place’ at Highway Patrol

Moving swiftly to tamp down a growing furor in the media and with the motoring public, state highway safety chief Terry Rhodes issued a memorandum late Thursday night to the top brass at the Florida Highway Patrol. Her message was blunt and unambiguous: “Quotas have no place within the Florida Highway Patrol.”

Rhodes responded to the Times/Herald’s coverage of an internal email that FHP Maj. Mark Welch sent to troopers in an eight-county region around Tallahassee, telling them that now that they have received a 5 percent raise, they need to write two tickets an hour while on an overtime traffic enforcement program. The troopers who got the order are in charge of patrolling a nearly 100-mile stretch of Interstate 10 from Madison County west to Gadsden County — a haven for speeders.

Welch’s July 28 memo created much social media chatter, led some local TV newscasts and prompted a warning from a key legislator, Sen. Jeff Brandes, R-St. Petersburg, that ticket quotas are illegal under state law.