tampabay.com

Today's Letters: Elected officials should serve taxpayers

By LETTERS TO THE EDITOR
Published June 8, 2007


Mayors vent fears of losing control of taxes June 7, story  

Don't we elect mayors, commissioners and legislators to represent us? So how come when there is a rare, clear mandate from the people, in this case to reduce taxes, our honorable "representatives" seem to be doing everything possible to prevent it from happening?

Come on, guys, we need some help here. And don't tell me that reducing taxes means no police or fire protection and the closing of libraries. We had all of these services in 2001 and were doing just fine.

What we didn't have were the plethora of city works projects, like sidewalks and planted medians, fancy new pedestrian stoplights, multiple bridge replacements, etc. Take a look at the projects completed by your various departments since 2001 and you'll find plenty that we couldn't have afforded before. That's where the extra money went, the money you received simply because real estate values increased, the money we don't want to give you anymore.

The problem today is that when real estate values drastically increased, the millage (based on your budgets) should have seen a matching decrease. Instead, you took the unexpected windfall and spent it! Don't you understand that we don't have more cash just because the value of our homes increased?

Roll back your budgets to, say, 2001, cancel any new departments and terminate any positions added since then, and I dare say most of this outcry will go away. After all, the Save Our Homes cap wasn't a problem until you took advantage of the real property valuation increases.

Please quit fighting us, join our side and help us - as you were put into office to do.

Bob Crawford, St. Petersburg

Anxiety mounts on taxes June 5, story

No real relief

The story says that the lack of specifics on property tax legislation "has left homeowners unsure how they will fare ..."

Actually, we already have a pretty good idea of how we will fare, and it isn't pretty. In the recently approved state budget, the Legislature has mandated a 7.4 percent increase in the local property taxes that are used to pay for schools. Paying for our schools now makes up almost half of our local property taxes. It looks as though the Legislature is solving our property tax crisis the same way it solved the insurance crisis. A lot of big talk, but no real relief.

The only real hope is to dump all of the incumbents who voted to raise our taxes while promising relief, who vote to rob Peter to pay Paul, and who always forget that they are supposed to represent the voters in their district.

As Rep. Rick Kriseman recently pointed out, there are $30-billion worth of tax exemptions on the rolls. Our legislators don't lack the means to solve the property tax crisis, they just lack the political willpower.

Paul Starr, Treasure Island

Voters: Reduce taxes, services June 7, story

It doesn't add up

What have I been missing? Property taxes have shot through the roof in the past couple of years, which means municipalities have raked in much more money. Salaries and service expenses have not risen proportionally. So what gives? We elect politicians who promise to reduce our burden only to have them subsequently threaten to take away "services" to do so.

How did these municipalities manage to run a couple of years ago when property taxes were more manageable? Am I the only person out here who is confused?

B.J. Mitchell, St. Petersburg

Voters: Reduce taxes, services June 7, story

Fear not

If all the people concerned about how lowering property taxes might affect their lives took the time to research how such moves by other states had actually worked out, I think they might find themselves reassured. For example, in the '70s, California passed Proposition 13, dramatically lowering property taxes. And quality of life didn't suffer as a result. In fact, property values soared in California after Prop 13 passed.

I lived in California in the '70s and both witnessed and enjoyed the benefits of Prop 13. But please don't take my word for it. Do some research on other places that have capped property taxes and on what happened afterward.

The people who run governments, to no surprise, seem to never acknowledge the presence of "dead wood" in their organizations. But experience shows it doesn't hurt to do some heavy pruning. Many people make do with 10-year-old autos. But no self-respecting city government would be seen with garbage trucks that were anything but almost new.

Alan Reeder-Camponi, St. Petersburg

Tax proposals to cut services June 2, story

Was it poor planning?

Exactly what are impact fees meant to pay? County Administrator Pat Bean says Hillsborough County may have to postpone building 10 fire stations and seven new libraries if taxes are cut.

Weren't impact fees set aside to pay for these? Why would they be cut if their cost was planned for and included in the impact fee set for new growth? Were impact fees set artificially low to encourage development? Do all of us in long-established neighborhoods now have to pay for these libraries and fire stations whose service areas won't include us?

There are so many questions without good answers. I have others: Is staff miscalculating? Are our commissioners overriding staff recommendations? What exactly is our policy on setting impact fees? Why is it accepted that residents in 40-year-old homes pay for the needs of new growth?

Lauren Shiner, Tampa

Cut the scare tactics

I am wondering if our local government "leaders" are manipulative politicos with no consciences or if they just think their constituents are not very bright.

In discussing tax relief and budgetary adjustment, the first cuts these leaders talk about are in health and safety services such as fire rescue and police. Why aren't they discussing cuts to the parks and recreation departments, or to the offices of the clerk of the court, the tax collector or county administrator?

Is it because they are seeking to strike fear in the hearts of voters and temper the desire for tax relief?

Shame on all the local politicians for their alarmist rhetoric! Shame on them for not acting like true leaders by seeking the best and most painless solutions for their constituents! Shame on them for not first seeking out cuts in their own offices!

Please stop trying to scare me and find appropriate solutions! Curb unnecessary spending and support what is truly important to the health and welfare of our communities and state.

Sheri P. Glass, St. Petersburg

Homeowners insurance

Costly 'savings'

Recently, our state legislators said that they worked long hours to reduce our homeowners insurance premiums. Then they took their bows in front of the media.

I have just received my statement for my next year's insurance, and I wish to thank them for what they did. My home insurance only went up 40 percent from 2007 to 2008.

If this is their idea of saving me a lot of money, I would like to ask them to keep their hands off my real estate taxes. I can't afford to have them save me any more money.

Richard McAtee, New Port Richey

Backed into a corner

I just heard, through my insurance company, that Nationwide Insurance has been granted a 45 percent increase on new homeowner policies. I think this is wonderful! Now their CEOs can buy two mansions.

When is this going to stop? Did someone in the insurance industry and gasoline industry declare war on the working class? How far are we going to be pushed in the corner, moneywise, before we all wake up and start swinging back?

Lon Cerame, Madeira Beach

Gulf & Bay section June 1

Boating safety

Sid Klein, Clearwater's chief of police, should be criticized for not wearing a personal flotation device and for not requiring his companion to do the same (as they appeared on the cover of this section).

Admittedly the current regulations only require children under 13 to do so, but common sense as well as the strong recommendations of the U.S. Coast Guard and most boating organizations advise that PFDs be worn at all times. Klein could have sent a positive message to other boaters, especially those who are new to the sport.

Recreational craft are required to have PFDs on board, but they can only save your life if you wear them.

Thomas I. Hayes, St. Petersburg