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Tallahassee Taxes Won’t Increase This Year, Some Commissioners Hope They’ll Go Down

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City of Tallahassee
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City commissioners have agreed not to include a tax increase in the upcoming fiscal year’s budget. And  some commissioners are talking about the possibility of a tax cut.

Last year’s budget raised property taxes for Tallahassee residents. That led to an outcry from citizens. And even frustration from commissioners when they learned of a city budget surplus after they’d already approved the hike. Commissioner Gil Ziffer says he’d like to walk the increase back if there’s a chance

“As we go through this I think there’s probably going to be some outcomes that might provide for that. I know that we’re going to be looking at five-year programs, so we need to look ahead because we don’t want to be bouncing up and down, but if we can also send that message where not only are we not increasing, but we’re also looking for ways to decrease, I think that would be helpful,” Ziffer says.

Meanwhile, Commissioner Curtis Richardson says commissioners are living with the increase they approved too. He says they’re all tax payers and they all have family members and neighbors who’ve been impacted.

“I have neighbors who are retired. I’ve got a single elderly neighbor who lives by herself. So I don’t want to do anything to adversely impact them in anyway. If anything, I want to be able to give them relief and all of our neighbors throughout the community. So I think we need to send that clear message that we aren’t recklessly spending tax payer money—that we are looking for efficiency,” Richardson says.

In a response to some of the confusion over last year’s budget, Tallahassee officials are working to make this year’s process more transparent. The city launched a website Wednesday to give citizens a clearer look at income and spending and staff has been meeting with various stakeholders and surveying citizens to learn about what spending areas are priorities for the community. But Barney Bishop, who is the president of the local business group NEBA, and the chairs the group Citizens for Responsible spending, says if the city really wants to be transparent, he has a few suggestions.

“First both NEBA and CRS would like to request that the city staff and the commission and the mayor would consider having the June 14tbudget workshop in the evening so that business holders and concerned tax payers would be able to come attend this last workshop,” Bishop says.

Bishop also suggests giving those who attend more time to present their views. Meanwhile, commissioners are pushing back against criticism of proposed employee raises. While critics point out state employees haven’t seen across the board raises in years, commissioners and Mayor Andrew Gillum say cost of living raises make sense for Tallahassee workers.

“The state is absolutely no model for how you treat dedicated, hardworking employees—not for the private sector and absolutely not for the public sector which generally is lower paid,” Gillum says.

And Gillum points out giving city employees a raise is a benefit for Tallahassee. He says most of the city’s employees go on to spend and circulate their money in Tallahassee.