The incumbent for Tallahassee City Commission Seat Two is defending the city’s budget and employee raises.
Opponent Steven Hougland is criticizing the City Commission on its spending, particularly last year’s 13-percent property tax increase. The original proposal was 27 percent.
“Last year’s property tax increase was the highest tax rate increase in city history," Hougland says on WFSU's Political Perspectives on Tuesday. "Mr. Richardson supported a 27-percent property tax increase many times and ultimately voted for the largest tax increase in city history.”
But Incumbent Curtis Richardson argues he never supported the initial 27-percent hike.
“Mr. Hougland, you know better," Richardson says. "I hope you know better, and if you don’t, you should know better. That was a recommendation made by our previous city manager. Our city commission never considered a 27-percent increase in the property tax rate.”
Richardson says the property tax increase was necessary after 10 years of no change.
“What had happened in the City of Tallahassee for 10 years–10 years, by the way, that Mr. Hougland has lived here–his taxes have never been increased, because the Commission never proposed a tax increase until now," he says.
The pair also debated recent pay raises for top city officials.
Hougland applauds Richardson for pushing a discussion of the raises when they were first announced.
“I commend Commissioner Richardson’s initial call for discussion," Hougland says. "He was not aware, apparently initially, when the raises were announced by the city manager. I agree with him that those pay raises, due to the significance of them, those should have been discussed publicly and allowed an opportunity for public input.”
But he says when Richardson was given the chance to discuss the raises, he didn’t.
“At the meeting when he had the opportunity to open the discussion, there was no discussion," Hougland says. "He said this is good stuff, and he just simply approved those raises without any discussion or questions at all.”
However, Richardson argues the Commission did talk about the raises.
“If Mr. Hougland had been there through all of the discussion and presentation, which he wasn’t, he would have seen and heard from the city manager why he recommended the raises that he did," Richardson says. "I think the city manager did a fantastic job of reorganizing the city, flattening the organization, consolidating departments and gave people additional responsibilities.”
Listen to the entire podcast here.