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Today's Letters: District shouldn't have left message

Published April 22, 2007



District shouldn't have left message

At 6:30 p.m. Thursday, my home answering machine recorded an automated message from Heather Fiorentino, superintendent of Pasco County Schools. In the message she referred to the recent violence at Virginia Tech and the anniversary of the Columbine shootings. She was calling to reassure me that the school district has heightened sensitivity this week to potential problems among its students as well as tightened security measures. She also said if my child is having any problems to please alert a principal or guidance counselor.

While I can appreciate the district's message, I strongly object to the method of delivery. I have young children, ages 7 and 4, and have been shielding them from the news. This week the TV is off until they're in bed. I can barely comprehend and process the horror of what happened at Virginia Tech, let alone begin to explain it to my children. It is not up to the school district to bring this news into my home via answering machine.

Is the message meant to signal that the district took a proactive stance in the event of a possible future violent act by one of its own students (and the inevitable lawsuit)? I hope my child's school is looking out for the welfare and mental well-being of its students not just this week, but at all times.

Rebecca Rice, New Port Richey


Still a lot of good in community 

Lacoochee still looking for signs of progress April 15 story, and Hope and groups fade; government steps in April 18 editorial

Speaking as a resident of the area, I would like to remind you of the many positive events that are going on in our area.

The Christian Edge Coffee House, headed by Roger Kaminski, has been providing a safe, spiritual, and entertaining center for residents of all ages, kids to elders, each and every Saturday for the past three years. It is at the corner of U.S. 301 and Trilby Road, right in the middle of the communities.

Karen Marler, principal of the Lacoochee Elementary School, has been holding monthly meetings (the fourth Tuesday of each month at 9 a.m.) of a community task force at her school. Subjects range from education and safety, to code enforcement and community events. Attendees have included leaders in the Sheriff's Office, county commissioners, prosecutors, parks and recreation directors, area health agencies, other community associations, Officer Friendly and other deputies, as well as many just plain residents and citizens.

The Greater Trilby Community Association provides a monthly meeting place in Trilby as well as a Crime Watch and security patrol. It publishes an area newsletter bimonthly and have sponsored community events, such as a fall festival and children's safety rally.

The Trilby Masonic Lodge continues to be an area resource and provided the volunteers for the Stanley Park Easter egg hunt this year.

Stanley Park, along with the Lacoochee Elementary School, have had many community events such as the "Touch a Truck" display of county and utility equipment for a hands-on activity on April 27.

The Gathering Place organization provides local country and gospel music each Saturday afternoon at the Trilby Methodist Church building.

And, as you recognized, Isa Blanford of the Housing Authority and Lottie Silas of the Boys and Girls Club bring a lot of positive resources and help to the area.

Yes, things can be better, and we can use all the help we can get, but we are not just sitting on our hands waiting for solutions to be given to us. We are working to try to make it better ourselves.

Richard K. Riley, Trilby


State finances are out of control  

The Money Vat: Where It all Goes April 15 story

Both the system of real property taxation and lack of fiscal budgetary regulation are totally uncontrolled in Florida. The governor and Legislature are perplexed as to what is wrong or how to remedy either. They need only look to states that have successfully controlled both issues' decades ago.

Take New Jersey. The bankruptcy of the city of Asbury Park during the Great Depression locked the entire state out of the credit markets until it demonstrated that fiscal restrain was implemented.

Real property taxation is based on an equalized valuation. Florida, in contrast, is extremely unequal with the Save Our Homes regulation. Instead of spreading the tax burden proportionately, the state controls the valuation of existing property, while all newly constructed or resales are valued at "market," which is far greater than Save Our Homes. So one resident may be valued at an historic rate and capped at a certain annual growth rate. A neighbor who purchases an identical homestead next door is valued at market, perhaps two or more times the value of his neighbor. Taxes levied are then disproportionate on the two properties. This gives rise to the real estate trap that is prohibitive to seniors in downsizing.

Simple enough to solve. Put all real property homesteaders on an equal footing. In New Jersey, all property is valued on a base year, on a countywide basis. This is done by using an equalization rate across the board. When the equalization rate falls below 60 percent, a complete revaluation is mandated and all properties are reset to 100 percent of current markets. The mil rate is also reset so that no automatic increase occurs.

Now the aforementioned could not be accomplished and allow municipal governments to raise a controlled budget if the process continues to flood dollars into their budgetary process. Local budgets need control. A budgetary cap dictates that the budget may only increase at the rate of inflation, plus an allowance for new construction added to the tax rolls. The additions must be on an equalized valuation with the entire valuation of the taxing district. Allowances are made for mandated programs and other items on an individual exception basis. New budgetary items are allowed when there is an offsetting grant-in-aid from a federal or state program, i.e. the various community-oriented police incentives offered by the U.S. Department of Justice.

Both of these controls are necessary for the system to operate successfully. If either system is compromised, then control is out the window.

The approaches that the governor and Legislature propose are just poor bandages on a sick system. No one wants to face the prospect or real control.

Robert Daetsch, Trinity The writer is retired chief financial officer and tax collector from Aberdeen, N.J.

[Last modified April 22, 2007, 07:15:12]

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