cloudy-day Created with Sketch.
Broken Clouds
H 86° L 65°
  • cloudy-day Created with Sketch.
    Current Conditions
    Clear. H 86° L 65°
  • clear-night
    Clear. H 86° L 65°
  • clear-day Created with Sketch.
    Sunny. H 87° L 68°

The latest top stories

00:00 | 00:00


The latest traffic report

00:00 | 00:00


The latest forecast

00:00 | 00:00

The tax rate debate: Where does your rep stand?

The tax rate debate: Where does your rep stand?

The tax rate debate: Where does your rep stand?
Photo Credit: Stephanie Brown

The tax rate debate: Where does your rep stand?

To some it’s an intolerable burden, to others it’s a drop in the bucket, and to still others, it’s a key point of deliberation.

The tax rate is already emerging as a key fight in this year’s budget battle.

With Jacksonville’s budget formally unveiled, it’s another year of no tax hikes put forward by the Mayor’s Office. Many of Jacksonville’s City Councilmen, however, are questioning whether that is truly the right path to be taking.

“When you take an absolutionist stance, it gets pretty dangerous. You get pushed in to a corner,” says Councilman Richard Clark.

For Clark, as well as Councilman Bill Bishop, nothing can be off the table at this stage in the debate.

“The whole financial picture at the moment is not a healthy one,” Bishop says.

This doesn’t mean that either is committed to seeing a rate hike take effect, but they tell me with a more than $60 million gap to fill in the budget, all resources need to be considered.

The main driver of that gap is the city’s pension payout.  There is legislation before council right now representing the Mayor’s pension reform proposal, and the Mayor has also convened a special committee to look in to the current reform proposal.  The future of the legislation is uncertain, however, because many councilmen view it as not fully addressing the problem in both the here-and-now as well as the long term.

It’s the more pressing concern for Councilman Matt Schellenberg. Schellenberg wouldn’t say specifically if he thinks a tax rate hike should be part of the current discussion, saying instead the city needs to have some serious talks with the pension board.

Outstanding questions like pension and exactly how to fill some of the extraordinary lapses put in the budget are reasons Finance Chair Greg Anderson and Councilman Ray Holt gave me for why they wouldn’t commit one way or another to having tax hikes in the discussion as well. 

For still others, the reality is the tax rate will be talked about, but it should stop there.

“Inevitably, they’ll be part of the discussion, I just don’t think they should be part of the solution,” Councilman Robin Lumb tells me.

Lumb drew attention Monday when, following the Mayor’s budget presentation, he questioned whether the Mayor would veto a proposal that came to him which included a tax hike.  Brown said he would.

That came as little surprise to Lumb, and as a welcome message to Councilman Jim Love.

“We shouldn’t have to raise taxes to be able to fund some things we can do,” he says.

Love tells me when he campaigned, he went door-to-door, and time and again his constituents told him they couldn’t deal with a higher tax burden.  He made the promise to them that he wouldn’t support a higher rate.

Moreover, he sees a higher rate as a potential roadblock for the economic progress the city is making.

“I’m afraid if we raise taxes at this time, that it may stunt growth,” Love says.

He tells me if property values consistently declined and services continued to shoulder cuts, he would consider a hike then.  He believes things are turning around, and funding should be picking up again next year, however, which means he can’t support a hike this year.

Others say they cannot support a tax hike, but have little insight at this time for how to keep funding city services without it. Councilman Don Redman tells me he won’t stand for any more hits to the Sheriff’s Office or the libraries. When asked how else to make up that funding, however, he says it’s something council will work at.

The Mayor’s veto threat came as a surprise to at least one councilman, who believes the Mayor is outside his authority.  Councilman John Crescimbeni, who was Finance Chair last year, says with legislation specifically relating to the budget the Mayor cannot exercise his veto. According to Crescimbeni, Brown could choose not to sign any legislation the council sends on the tax rate, but that would merely revert the city to the rollback rate, which is the tax rate that ensures you pay the same amount in property tax this year as last year.

Under the current proposal, the Mayor does not support the rollback rate, instead opting to keep the tax rate the same which, with declining property value, has you paying less in property tax this year.

WOKV is digging in to city statute to determine whether a veto is, in fact, a viable option on the tax rate.

Overall, there are other significant questions coming from early reviews of this year’s budget.  Bishop tells me he’s concerned that there is no funding for capital maintenance, meaning that few repairs will get done this year- only breeding potentially bigger and more costly repairs in the future.  Anderson is looking at the $30 million lapse put in the Sheriff’s Office budget and questioning how to break it down. Council President Bill Gulliford, who also supports bringing in the tax rate discussion, says he’s troubled by the lack of detail in the budget proposal.  He believes the Mayor pushed a lot of detail work on to the council. Clark says that shows him a lack of leadership on behalf of the Mayor, calling this proposal the “cheap and lazy way out.”

WOKV reached out to all of Jacksonville's 19 Councilmen for this article. This piece represents the 10 who responded within the publishing deadline.

We are currently reviewing the more than 400 page budget document released Monday.  We will continue to follow the city’s debate over spending your tax dollars, and any effort to raise more of them.  You can also let us know whether you support a higher tax rate in an effort not to see big cuts from city services. Be sure to weigh in on our Facebook page with your input.

Read More

There are no comments yet. Be the first to post your thoughts. or Register.

The Latest News Headlines

  • On March 24, a surge of photos posted by everyday people and celebrities such as Taraji P. Henson and LL Cool J on social media show images with text claiming that 14 girls have disappeared in the last 24 hours in Washington, D.C., and the images have continued to pick up steam.   >> Read more trending news WRC reported however, that the information in those images is not entirely true.  Here are things to know about the missing teens in Washington: Police say that 14 teen girls have not disappeared from Washington in one day. The girls pictured in the viral image went missing at different times. Relisha Tenau Rudd, pictured on the far left of the image, was last seen in Washington on March 1, 2014. Pheonix Coldon was last seen December 18, 2011 in St. Louis. Shaniah Boyd was last seen in Washington. Makayla Randall, pictured on the far right, has been missing since October 1, 2012 and was last seen in Oak Park, Missouri. WRC reported that police have changed their method of communicating information about missing persons. There has been no increase in the number of missing people.  The Metropolitan Police Department has changed how it shares information on missing persons. “We've just been posting them on social media more often,” Metropolitan Police Department spokeswoman Rachel Reid said. Chanel Dickerson, commander of the Washington police’s Youth and Family Services Division, told The Washington Post that the 211 people reported missing in January reflected  better reporting by families, not an increase in missing teens. Many of the missing teens are black or Latino. Outrage over the missing persons comes from a perception that people of color who are missing are not covered in the media as often as white missing persons. Derrica Wilson, the co-founder and chief executive of the Black and Missing Foundation, which works to raise awareness of missing people of color, told The Huffington Post 40 percent of missing persons in the U.S. are people of color. Police say there is not a known link between the missing persons and human trafficking. Police spokeswoman Karimah Bilal told WRC the teens reported missing so far in 2017 left voluntarily. WUSA reported that since many teens left on their own, Amber Alerts have not been issued for them. “Because of the number of releases, there have been concerns that young girls in the District of Columbia are victims of human trafficking or have been kidnapped,” Bilal said. “We look at every case closely to make sure that doesn't happen, but to my knowledge, that hasn't been a factor in any of our missing person cases,” Bilal said.  Washington Mayor Muriel Bowser and Washington police told WUSA they confirmed that there is no link between the missing persons and human trafficking. Although there is no reported  link, human trafficking is an issue in D.C. The D.C. Human Trafficking Task Force was formed in 2004 to find victims of trafficking and prosecute those who are trafficking victims. Other nongovernmental organizations have also been established to combat the issue. Those who run away or leave voluntarily may still be in danger. “We need to find out the underlying reasons that so many young people in the District of Columbia have chosen to leave home voluntarily because they feel they have no other alternatives,” Dickerson told WRC. The National Conference of State Legislatures said that runaway youths face a higher likelihood and risk of anxiety, depression, suicide, and engaging in survival sex, human trafficking and dealing drugs to meet basic needs, like food, clothing and shelter. The also have an increased likelihood of participating in drug use. Research from the National Runaway Safeline says family conflict and being thrown out of the house -- sometimes because of a child’s sexual orientation -- are reasons why youths may run away. “One person missing is one person too many, especially when you’re talking about our young people,” Dickerson said at a Wednesday town hall. Lawmakers are calling on the FBI to investigate many of the missing persons cases. The Associated Press reported that Congressional Black Caucus chairman Cedric Richmond, D-La., and Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton, who represents the District of Columbia in Congress, sent a letter Tuesday that called for Attorney General Jeff Sessions and FBI Director James Comey to devote time to investigating the number of missing children in Washington and “determine whether these developments are an anomaly or whether they are indicative of an underlying trend that must be addressed.” “Ten children of color went missing in our nation's capital in a period of two weeks and at first garnered very little media attention. That's deeply disturbing,” the letter sent to the Justice Department said. Members of the Washington community are demanding answers. Community members in Washington and across the country are demanding answers and action from officials and media out of frustration over lack of media coverage of missing black women and girls. A 2010 study from Pace University found black missing children and missing girls were “significantly underrepresented” in TV news coverage. A 2015 study from West Virginia University replicated those findings and showed that those groups were underrepresented compared to the 2014 FBI-reported proportions in which black people and females are reported as missing. That FBI report on missing-person entries showed 37 percent of those reported missing under the age of 21 were black. It found that white children who are missing are underrepresented in TV news. Members of the community met at a town hall Wednesday and WUSA9 reported that many were frustrated and disappointing with the city’s response. “Why are we just finding out?” a person asked.  “I was astounded when I looked at the number of missing African-American females,” Dickerson told WTTG Thursday. “I'm not trying to minimize that other people aren’t missing, but they looked like me and so I just wanted to make sure that every investigation focused on every child thesame way and we get the same exposure to everyone regardless of your race or where you live.” The number of missing persons in Washington changes daily. The Metropolitan Police Department reports the number of open and closed missing person cases and has them broken down by year, critical and non-critical, and juvenile and adult. Recent data from the department shows a decrease in reported missing person cases from 2,433 in 2015 to 2,242 in 2016.  The regularly updated list of missing persons, including flyers of missing persons, are on the Metropolitan Police Department website.  Tweets from the Metropolitan Police Department have been removed from this story as the department reported some critical missing teens have been found. 
  • The Clay County Sheriff's Office is asking for the public's help identifying an auto burglary suspect.   According to detectives, a male wearing a hooded sweatshirt and gloves targeted several unlocked vehicles in the Argyle area of Orange Park early Wednesday morning.   We're told all of the vehicles targeted were on Golden Pond Boulevard.   If you recognize the suspect, you're urged to call the sheriff's office at (904) 264-6512.
  • Clay County Schools said Fleming Island High School is currently under a precautionary boil water advisory for the next 48 to 72 hours. Water service to the school was temporarily interrupted for the emergency repair of a broken water line on Wednesday, according to our partner Action News Jax. Restrooms are working, but the school district said students are urged to bring their own water bottles to drink during the day. The school district said it will also provide drinking water until the boil water advisory is lifted.
  • He had been found incompetent to stand trial three times, but Joshua Goldberg may now be ready to face the federal terror-related charge he’s accused of.  The Orange Park man was indicted in September 2015. Court documents claim Goldberg sent information on how to make a bomb to a person he believed was going to plant the bomb at a September 11th memorial event in Kansas City, Missouri. Goldberg’s instructions even included how to inflict the most damage with the device- like dipping shrapnel in rat poison- according to the indictment. The person speaking with Goldberg was actually a confidential informant.  Prosecutors say Goldberg admitted to giving the instructions, but he believed the person he was speaking with wasn’t going to follow through. The indictment says Goldberg planned to tell law enforcement if the device was actually planted, making himself a hero.  Goldberg was first ruled incompetent to stand trial in December 2015, then again in June and December 2016. He has been undergoing treatment at Federal Medical Center in Butner, NC for autism spectrum disorder and major depressive disorder. During a status hearing Wednesday, a judge mentioned that a competency report had been received in which doctors who have been treating Goldberg say he is now competent to stand trial.  A competency hearing must still be held where a judge will make a formal determination. Goldberg’s attorney, Paul Shorstein, tells WOKV News that he is unsure at this time whether he will dispute the doctor’s report. “I really can’t say one way or another. I mean, I’ve read the report. I need to talk to him, talk to his family,” Shorstein says. He plans to know more by the competency hearing.  The US Attorney’s Office confirms another status conference has been set for April 7th, at which time they will set a date for the competency hearing. 
  • Ford has issued a recall covering 441,000 2013 through 2015 model year vehicles over problems related to engine fires and faulty door latches. The company is alerting 230,000 owners of four 2013 through 2015 models, including Fusion mid-size cars, Escape SUVs, Fiesta ST subcompacts and Transit Connect vans with 1.6-Liter turbocharged engines. >> Read more trending news The engines can overheat, causing a crack in the cylinder head, according to Ford. Oil could leak through the crack possibly catching fire, if it comes in contact with a hot surface. Ford has reported 29 fires related to the problem, but no injuries, The Associated Press reported.    The auto giant is also recalling another 211,000 2013 and 2014 model year vehicles as part of a previous recall over faulty door latches that cause doors to open while the car is being driven. The vehicles include the 2013 and 2014 Fusion and Lincoln MKZ, and the 2014 Fiesta. >> Got a question about the news? See our explainers here Ford will contact owners about the recalls and provide information on how to fix the problems. The Associated Press contributed to this story.

The Latest News Videos