City Budget Proposal Includes Property Tax Increase
The Tallahassee commission is considering a budget that would increase property taxes by about 27 percent. The main reason for that jump is to help fund policing efforts.
The City of Tallahassee wants to hire 18 new officers. Mayor Andrew Gillum says that will free more police up to get out into the community. And Police Chief Michael DeLeo says according to national best practices, an officer should spend at least half of his or her time out in the community.
“Even if you’re in a traffic crash or you’re the victim of a crime and an officer comes out and they do everything perfectly – they treat you the right way, they conduct a thorough investigation, they write a textbook report. The fact is your frame of reference with that officer is still a negative one because something bad happened to you that caused that officer to engage," DeLeo says. "What we’re trying to do is create opportunity for officers to engage with the public when something bad hasn’t happened.”
DeLeo says that’s happening less than a quarter of time. But to hire more officers, commissioners are considering an increase in the city’s millage rate, or property tax. The current spending proposal includes a one mill increase, which is $100 more per year for every $100,000 of taxable value on a home. But that’s just the city rate. Other entities, such as schools also have the option of raising taxes. That means a person’s overall tax bill could grow even more.
Meanwhile, DeLeo says the department is applying for a grant to purchase body cameras for its officers. He’s asking the city for $600,000 to match that grant. DeLeo says the city’s contribution will help to pay for storage and servers for the cameras and video. But Commissioner Scott Maddox says the size of the ask makes him hesitate.
“For me I’d rather see the dollars go into new personnel than go into body cameras,” Maddox says.
And Commissioner Nancy Miller says she thinks there are other priorities the department should focus on. Rather than body cams she says she’d like to see more police cars equipped with dash cams. DeLeo says only about 10 percent of the city’s patrol vehicles have them. Miller also says she’s worried about the privacy issues that come along with body cams.
“I wanted to clarify exactly what kind of access the public has to these films," Miller says. "Can someone just get up and say, well, I want to see everything you’ve got on Nancy Miller?”
DeLeo says the video would be subject to the same rules as the body cameras and dash cameras the city already uses. And he points out the state legislature has recently passed legislation to protect privacy. It exempts body cam videos from public records requests if the videos were taken in a person’s home, in a mental health or healthcare facility, or in another place a person would expect to be private.
The city’s budget proposal also includes an increase for human service grants, as well as an additional $500,000 for street and sidewalk projects. The budget isn’t finalized. Commissioners have a second workshop on the plan scheduled for July.