From 2005-2008, citizens of the state of Florida were suffering from the heavy burden of local governments. These governments were riding a wave of false property value escalation to bring in record amount of property tax revenue. For several years the Citizens fought. They went to the legislature, and got very little. They launched their own constitutional amendment drive to cap property taxes at 1.35% of a property’s value. They were rebuffed by an activist Supreme Court. Ultimately the powers that be delivered a drop of water to the desert of property tax devastation, and Amendment One was passed that delivered a small amount of property tax relief. But the real relief only came when the property bubble burst, driving values closer to reality and cutting some of the property tax revenue governments had spent before they collected. The same story is about to be told in Florida only it is now happening from 2015-2020.
Since the property taxes fell to a relative low in 2011, property tax revenues have begun to rise again for local governments. Yet again local governments crow how they have not raised the tax “rate” while still increasing their property tax dollars haul. When their property taxes dried a bit from 2009-2011, they simply raised other fees and revenues off the back of taxpayers to make up the difference. For instance, the Pinellas County Government has budgeted total revenues of $1.23 billion, about the same level as the $1.24 billion at their peak in 2007. That is all revenues, property taxes, fees, utility rates and more.
Even while governments like the Pinellas county government have made up for the “losses” of property taxes since 2011 by raising other fees, they are still hungry for even more property tax dollars. Indeed, property tax revenues are already starting to escalate to the levels of the first decade’s crisis. The impact on homeowners, business owners and the economy will be just as dramatic. Sunbeam Times founder Dr. David McKalip has analyzed total property tax revenues taken in by all governments and taxing authorities since 2000. The total property tax revenues collected throughout the entirety of Pinellas County in 2014 was $1.29 billion. That is slightly higher than the level of 2004 ($1.212) – the year when people began to notice the large property tax bills started arriving in the mail boxes of Pinellas County residents. Prior to that, the county had been escalating its property tax revenues to beyond $1 billion for the first time in 2002, all off the property value bubble. The property tax crisis took off in 2005 when collections went to $1.4 billion in 2005 and to a peak of $1.6 billion in 2006.
It is clear that the local governments and taxing authorities of Pinellas County plan to ride a new increase in property values to collect ever higher levels of property taxes. This is not necessary, since the local taxing authorities can merely set the property tax rate (the millage) at the “Rolled Back Rate”. That is the rate that will allow them to collect the same property tax revenues as prior years. The local government are dominated mostly by progressive tax and spend liberals and they are already embarking on their spending sprees: recycling, art projects, social programs, “living wages” for government workers and more. They will loudly complain that they can’t cut their spending without jeopardizing vital services – a tactic they used during the first property tax crisis. However, they are taking no steps to renegotiate union pension and benefit plans that are commonly the major source of government spending. They don’t look for ways to cut back on bloated bureaucracies. They continue to grow their reserve levels in the government bank accounts far above what is required by law or even common sense. The only way that citizens will change this is by working to throw out the tax hikers in elections and energizing other citizens and community groups they work with to make the government serve the people and not the government themselves.