Live Oak —
The Suwannee County Board of County Commissioners voted 3-2 Thursday evening to increase the fire assessment tax rate among other things at its first budget hearing. Commissioners Ricky Gamble and Jason Bashaw voted against. Many of the residents opposed raising the tax.
Suwannee County homeowners will see an increase from $45.91 annually to a minimum of $75 for the 2013-14 fiscal year, and a proposed progression scale that could raise the tax to a maximum of $118 within the next five years. This was the last hearing on this issue.
For residential properties, the proposed tax will begin at a minimum of $75, not to exceed $118 over the next five years.
For non-residential properties, the proposed tax minimum is $.09 per square foot, not to exceed $.15 per square foot.
For land, parcels less than 160 acres will be taxed at a minimum of $13.43 per parcel, not to exceed $21.32 per parcel.
For properties greater than 160 acres (capped at 640 acres), the minimum proposed tax will be $.11, not to exceed $.17 per acre.
Sherry Clark, a resident of Suwannee County for over 20 years, expressed her concerns and asked the board to consider the needs, not the wants.
“Shouldn’t we put our needs before our wants?” Clark asked.
Another aspect Clark encouraged to consider is taxing those who are affected, not just the homeowners.
“Why increase it (tax) for those it doesn’t benefit?” she stated. “I ask you to consider raising the sales tax, not the fire tax, so everyone pays for these services, not just the home owners.”
Clark also asked the board if they would consider a petition if she obtained 1,000 signatures requesting the board to increase sales tax and obtain fire assessment tax from that budget, so everyone is taxed equally.
As Clark left the stand, she walked away with no answer to her question. However, it wasn’t until later in the meeting Chairman Wesley Wainwright answered her question.
Wainwright said the board would entertain a petition and take it into consideration, however, it was too late for it to be considered for this budget year.
Local resident James Wilkes kept his message simple, but to the point.
“Right now, we’re basically in a depression. I don’t believe in just spending money to spend money,” he said.
In his comments, Wilkes said taxes and the price of everything is going up, yet the money people make isn’t, making it tougher on the people.
Beachville resident James Delaney said he is opposed to raising taxes and said others in his community are against it as well.
“I don’t know what your salary is, but I know what mine is. I know people living on Social Security can’t afford stuff like this. You raise it to 75 dollars this time, next year you’re going to raise it again. What are people like me going to do,” Delaney asked.
He also said he had a complaint with a commissioner not returning his call.
“I called a county commissioner not too long ago and he didn’t even have the courtesy to call me back or even come to my house,” said Delaney. “He left a card when he was wanting me to vote for him, and you think I’m going to vote for someone that you can’t even depend on to come talk to you?”
Wainwright said, “That would be me. I’m just letting you know who it is.”
“You won’t get my vote and I’ll say that right here in front of these people,” Delaney said. “And anybody else I can talk to won’t vote for you.”
The board voted unanimously to retain last year’s solid waste assessment rate of $130 per household for the upcoming fiscal year.