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Posted August 8, 2016


Posted September 27, 2016

Cities and other taxing authorities are finalizing the millage rates that will govern their tax collections, and candidates for the offices that will vote those rates up or down are in the home stretch of campaigns leading up to the November 8 general election.

When we see the media reports or legal advertising on the tax rate hearings, there is a temptation to think that those numbers represent all we’ll pay. But they won’t…..we pay the accumulation of taxes levied in the districts where we live……city taxes, school taxes, hospital taxes, water district and mosquito control district and port authority and other taxes. GovStuff has added here a spread sheet showing what you are currently paying in most East Volusia areas, and how the totals have shifted over the last decade.

It bears repeating that if you looked at that formal notice you got on what your estimated taxes will be and decided that the value of your property on which they are based is too high or something else is wrong, you need to call Property Appraiser Morgan Gilreath’s office pronto. In most cases where an adjustment is warranted, they can handle it. There is only one more meeting to be held by the Value Adjustment Board at a date yet to be set, so if you fear you will end up there, you need to make contact. Phone numbers to reach both are with our report, reached by clicking on ISSUES on the bar above.


 The GovStuff Special Report on what we call the Power Pyramid of loosely aligned business interests who deal with politics as a part of and a cost of business worked smoothly through the primaries. We’ve posted a follow-up to our report showing the power of Pyramid support as reflected in the outcomes and looking ahead toward the influence that will affect the general election. You won’t find it elsewhere. Click here for the update and to review the original report. Share your thoughts about both with us by clicking on the Comment/Clarifications tab above and read the origianl report here.


Posted September 25, 2016

County Manager Jim Dinneen is leading a four year campaign to zero out Volusia General Fund Debt. To do so, property tax rates, employee raises and health care costs will be locked in through at least the 2019- 2020 Fiscal Year.

 At the July 7 Council meeting retired U. S. diplomat, civic activist and Taxpayers Action Group leader Stan Escudero told members Dineen’s plan is “an extraordinary effort . . . a bold effort and a well-conceived effort . . . that I urge you to try”. The plan locks in property tax rates 6.1 mills from the 2016-2017 fiscal year through fiscal 2019-2020 and controls key spending areas so that “we can continue to run the government at reasonable levels and projections, we can pay for all the capital expenses we have put in front of you on capital needs.” (Click here to review current capital projects.) He projected the County would acquire no new debt in that period. Key assumptions on which Dinneen based his plan include:

· A 6.1 millage rate that started that will stay at that rate through the 2019-2020 Fiscal Year.

· Employee pay increases set at 3% per year through FY 2019- 2020.

· Annual health insurance and retirement cost increases pegged at 9% per year for that period.

Dinneen told Council that possible changes in the economy add an element of uncertainty to his assumptions, but argued that “the greatest protection against an uncertain economy is not having debt, because then you can deal with your revenue.” To those who suggest that new construction and an influx of new residents will fuel growth and inflate budgets, the manager cautioned that growth requires expanded services, especially in the case of new residents with medical needs. He said the expectation is that a new crew per year will have to be added to the EVAC emergency medical transportation fleet.

Dinneen believes current projects can be funded, and some old debt paid off early. His presentation was less specific on other high profile County involvements, including dealing with the indigent population and beach maintenance that are front burner issues. He told Council that “we’re concerned” with cost shifting associated with some of the plans for dealing with homelessness being discussed. “Some of [the plans] might sound good to the taxpayers but what if the costs shift back to us? They (cities and others pushing plans) will get to cut the ribbon and we will get to cut the check.” He called for “no additions to the list of proposed projects unless we swap something.” The five year plan makes no provision for homeless shelter costs, which raised immediate concern among homeless advocates as to the County’s commitment to a workable solution to that issue.

Heavy use of Volusia’s beaches on summer weekends justifies a review of fees, Dinneen said. “You are starting to push that cost back to the General Fund and maybe we have to do congestion pricing.” He suggested a Council review of all county fees to see if “they need to be tweaked, even by inflation.”

Noting variables that could affect his plan, the manager noted the sheriff and property appraiser, as state Constitutional Officers aren’t responsible to the County Manager even though the Council controls their purse strings. He said that as incumbents in those offices retire this year, he anticipates a continuation of a working relationship with their successors that maintains their needs at “reasonable levels.” He mentioned concern for unfunded mandates from the Legislature and said no new provisions for commuter rail expansion are included “because I have no idea where we’re going.” Neither does the plan include additional community redevelopment area (CRAs), but Dinneen said that could change without severely impacting the outcome. Action of the current Council also does not keep a future Council from changing the plan.

Dinneen summarized his ‘Go to Zero’ concept as something county staff has worked hard to develop. “I am an old-school guy and I am kind of pay as you go if you can,” he told Council, which authorized him to move forward with development of the concept.

For the General Fund Overview that accompanied the presentation, click here.

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