FAC News Clips – September 23-25, 2017
Naples Daily News
What were you doing as the eye of Hurricane Irma was making its way toward Southwest Florida? Busy gathering last-minute supplies? Getting in touch with family and loved ones to make sure they were prepared to face the wrath of one of the biggest storms to hit our area? It is a sure bet you weren’t roaming the halls outside the Collier County Commission chambers, where commissioners held a public hearing to consider a billion-dollar budget, including a possible tax hike. Maybe that was the commission’s plan.
City and county commissioners are holding public hearings this week on their 2018 budgets, both of which include property tax increases. The two local governments are keeping their tax rates the same as last year’s. But because the rates will raise new revenue, they’re considered tax increases under Florida law. That’s sparked opposition from the Network of Entrepreneurs and Business Advocates, which alerted its members in a Tuesday email blast.
Palm Beach Post
The Town Council plans a 5.4 percent property tax hike that would pump about $3 million more into town coffers. The tax increase would be part of an $81.5 million operating budget the council approved Tuesday for the budget year that begins Oct. 1 — a spending plan that’s 6.1 percent larger than this year’s $76.8 million budget. Final approval of the budget and tax rate is set for a public hearing at 5:01 p.m. Oct. 3 at Town Hall. Major expenses include $5.4 million to chip away at a long-term shortfall in employee pensions.
Ocala Star Banner
The millage rate hike will cost the average homeowner about $10 a month. For the first time in at least a decade, the Marion County Commission voted Thursday night to raise — ever so slightly — its base millage rate from 3.19 mills to 3.33 mills. The extra money is needed for a list of capital projects that have been repatedly put on hold, not the least being the courthouse elevators. Amazingly, this small bump in the tax rate was controversial. Commissioners David Moore and Carl Zalak voted to keep the base millage rate at 3.19 mills, while Commissioners Kathy Bryant, Jeff Gold and Michelle Stone voted to raise the rate.
Accounting system will let public run their own reports on where money is being spent. Alachua County is nearly ready to open its books to the public in a much more accessible way — over the internet. “The county is still working on the human resources and payroll conversion, and anticipates going live in January,” said Todd Hutchinson, county financial director. The new $795,000 system, once fully installed, will allow the public to track the county’s financial transactions, Hutchinson said.
Gainesville is facing a high demand for affordable housing at the same time the federal government is retreating from a commitment to help provide it. Cities across the country face a similar situation as they wait to see whether Congress will make the deep cuts to housing programs proposed by the Trump administration. But Gainesville has the advantage of having new local options for affordable housing on the horizon.
LIVE OAK — The Suwannee County Board of County Commissioners held a special meeting Monday to address payroll for those who worked during Hurricane Irma. County Administrator Randy Harris said the county has a policy to pay their employees for two days during an emergency if they are ordered to stay home or stay out of work. “When we created that policy, we did not contemplate that we would experience a storm that had the devastating effects as this one did,” Harris said.
As mountains of garbage pile up from Hurricane Irma, counties across Florida say that companies they hired to remove debris won't show up because they can make a lot more money doing the work in South Florida. The Sarasota Herald Tribune reports a half-dozen trucks arrived this week as reinforcements to help thinly stretched crews cleaning up thousands of tons of storm debris scattered across Sarasota County after Hurricane Irma. But they didn't pick up a thing.
Tampa Bay Times
TAMPA — Who has the authority to order an evacuation during a hurricane? In Hillsborough County, that depends on whom you ask. County Administrator Mike Merrill says he alone can call for an evacuation, and that Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn was out of line when he announced that some city residents needed to leave their homes two days before Hurricane Irma's approach. Buckhorn disagrees. The rift emerged at perhaps the worst possible moment: during the critical final days before Irma's date with Tampa Bay.
NEW YORK (AP) — Flood insurance is on people's minds again after hurricanes Harvey in Texas and Irma in Florida. Roy Wright, the director of the National Flood Insurance Program, has been pushing to make changes to the system, which is overseen by the Federal Emergency Management Agency. The flood insurance program was criticized after Hurricanes Sandy and Katrina as not being as responsive as it should be to disasters and floods as they happen, though Congress is likely to reauthorize the insurance program before it expires Sept. 30.
Tampa Bay Times
Remember Zika? The last time Gov. Rick Scott warned Floridians about the potential threat of the mosquito-borne virus was in July, when he urged residents to still be vigilant against bug bites and standing water. At the time, doctors and researchers were bracing for what was supposed to be another active summer season for the virus. Some expected it to be even worse than last year, when 1,100 travel-related cases were reported statewide and Zika spread into pockets of South Florida.