Two TAB Coalition Partners Organize Phonebank to oppose Tax Rate Increase

Is there really a swing vote who will decide if our tax rates are increased this year? It is possible.

During the July budget workshop, the vote to raise the maximum millage to rollback (4.8751) was 4-3. Commissioners Abrams, Marcus and Burdick voted no to the increase and all had good reasons to avoid a third hike in so many years. Commissioners Aaronson, Santamaria, and Taylor voted for the hike. They also gave reasons that are not likely to change in September.

Which leaves District 3 Commissioner Shelley Vana. Her votes on tax increases have been mixed, voting against the 14.9% hike in 2009 but supporting the 9.4% increase in 2010. This year, she voted to raise the maximum millage to keep “options open”, but suggested that there were more savings to be had and she would like to keep the tax rate unchanged when it comes up for the final vote in September.

After the July budget hearing, TAB sent the following in an email to Commissioner Vana:

“We were somewhat surprised at the contrast between your sentiment and your vote on the millage increase. While you continue to talk about efficiencies and metrics and finding another path than raising tax rates or cutting programs, you did not hesitate to vote the higher number.

It is not sufficient to say that it is a “starting point”. I’ve been watching this process for enough years to know how September will go. If you really think that another $12M (the difference between 2011 adopted tax and 2012 rollback) could be extracted from a $4B budget, and you intended to pursue it, then you would have voted for 4.75 to force the issue. For $12M you have poked a stick in the eye of the taxpayer. Actions speak louder than words.

If we are misreading your intentions, we would be glad to meet with you and correct our analysis.”

In response, and to her credit, she got in touch with us and made a convincing case that there was another $12M to be had and she just might “.. be the fourth vote ..” for flat millage in September.

We found this encouraging, but we also know that there are powerful interest groups in the county for continuing programs and taxes that speak very loudly to the commissioners. Those who do not want to see a tax rate increase are rarely heard. More to the point, it is the citizens of District 3 that should matter the most to the Commissioner, not any of the special interests, or even TAB.

Along these lines, two of TAB’s coalition partners have decided to reach out to the constituents of District 3 and educate them on the 2012 budget, and their Commissioner’s role as the potential “swing vote”.

The recently formed Palm Beach County Tea Party, with chapters in Jupiter, Wellington and Boca Raton will join forces with the South Florida 912 which meets in Palm Beach Gardens, Wellington and Lantana. Each of these groups is organizing a phone bank to contact District 3 citizens and ask them to make their wishes known to Commissioner Vana. They believe that many of the citizens would oppose a third year of tax rate hikes. If so, perhaps they can help the Commissioner find the additional $12M in cuts it will take to not raise our taxes again.

TAB applauds this effort and believes it is a new approach to broadening the county budget discussion beyond the commission chambers and the pages of the Palm Beach Post. It may turn out more attendees at the budget hearings who oppose another tax increase. At a minimum, it will have educated a larger group of county residents about the way their taxes are set.

If you would like to assist one of these organizations in their effort, you can contact them as follows:

Palm Beach County Tea Party: action@palmbeachcountyteaparty.org

South Florida 912: action@southflorida912.org

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