City Commissioners Use Fuzzy Math to Raise Taxes

 

Fuzzy-Math

City Commissioners are raising your taxes and telling you it’s not really a tax increase

 

Howard Melamed

Howard Melamed

By Howard Melamed:

At the Special City Commission Meeting , the city of Coral Springs commissioners are proposing a tax increase of 5 percent to all homeowners, while at the same time saying it really is not an increase. Their claim is that property values have increased and therefore as a result of this good fortune, they are getting more money and have found a way to spend exactly all of it.

This is the same city commission that has voted to increase commissioner salaries 64 percent, which will be on the Nov 4 ballot.

The facts are as follows :

1. They have a surplus this year of more than $1,000,000. They said that there is no reason to give this money back to the voters or reduce the budget or taxes by 1 percent “since a million dollars is not really a lot of money.”

2.When they did their new budgeting they increased it from the old budget and did not take into consideration that they over-budgeted for two years in a row.

3. The city takes in less money from commercial properties since they are going down in value and more money from residential properties. It is supposed to be the other way around.

4. The city needs the increase in revenues so they do not have to go before the voters to approve the new city hall $28,000,000.

5. The city commissioners could have made sure that we did not pay more taxes if they would have reduced the millage rate (the rate we pay taxes) by the same amount as the increase. So in fact, they are in control of the tax increase, since by doing nothing, we are paying more taxes.

It is also quite amazing how the commission is going out of their way trying to tell you differently. They all say that the increase in taxes that you are going to be paying is really not an increase. They state emphatically the State of Florida requires them to call it an increase since our tax bill will be more next year than this year. I am not sure if you are understanding this, but even though you are paying more taxes next year they want you to believe that you really are not, even though you are. Get it?

One of the commissioners claims that he is no math major.

Well, I am.

When your taxes increase, it is an increase in taxes. When you spend less money then you take in, that is a surplus.”

It is incredible that the commissioners think differently. They encourage you to call them up on their cell phones so that they can put you straight on this and dispel those people ( they mean me) that are feeding you the truth ( I used the truth, they claim it is something else). They will try to convince you that they actually know more than you and while they are taking money out of your pocket, they are telling you it really is not their hand doing it. So I encourage you to do exactly as they said. Call them up and ask them the simple questions regarding the non-increase increase such as … “Am I going to pay more taxes next year?” . Expect them to to answer ” Yes” . Then ask ” Ain’t that a tax increase ” They will say ‘No’. It is like an Abbott and Costello routine.

Blame Property Value Increases

The reason they are getting more money to spend is that your property value has increased. They say that the windfall in tax money ‘fell on their laps’ and they had nothing to do with it. Really? They could have rolled back the rates …a little to compensate so you would not have a tax increase. Ask them why they did not do that and they will tell you that we pay the lowest rate per value than anyone else in Broward County. We do not live anywhere else in Broward County. We live here in Coral Springs so whats wrong with having lower taxes?

The only time property value increase is a good thing is when you are selling your home (moving somewhere else where taxes are lower no doubt) or when you are refinancing. Higher property values for property owners translate in HIGHER TAXES!  To our citizens who live here and are not thinking of moving or selling, this hurts them since they are paying the government more money….in taxes.

Of course property value increases are great to see, but there is no reason for government to take more money from us as a result of our good fortune. Remember, as we have seen in the past, what goes up in value can come crashing down. So when you spend more money just because property values increase, there is a lot of pain when there is less money to spend. That is why I believe that any increase in spending beyond the rate of inflation or cost of living increases should be curtailed. It is common sense and as well it is prudent economic policy. It certainly should never be tied to property values as an excuse to raise more spending.

Creative Budgeting

It is important that everyone knows that in 2013 we had a $7,000,000 surplus or basically a 7 percent savings. Yet the same city commissioners increased the budget for the following year and stashed the money in Reserve, telling us that they need the money for a rainy day. In 2008 the rain came and went and we never used our full reserve at the time which was half of what we have now. This year they already stated that they have a million dollar surplus the first six months of the year. All of these savings never translate into a lower corrected budget, and they do not base the next budget on the Actual amount they took in or spent. They are basing the following year on the previous budget neglecting any savings going after public money. This is called Creative Budgeting that only government knows how to do best.

Phase I of the new Coral Springs City Hall

Phase I of the new Coral Springs City Hall

So why are they doing this?

I think that it is because they need to have enough revenue coming in to circumvent the normal bond issue process for the $28 million “Taj Mahal” known as the New City Hall. By letting the taxes increase and not lowering the millage rate to keep them stable, they expect to raise enough money to prove to bond holders that a Revenue Bond instead of a General Public Obligation bond is ok to issue. What is the difference? Revenue bonds do not have the public voting on them, while General Obligation Bonds, which are at a lower cost and lower interest rate, require public vote. The commissioners are concerned that if you had to vote on the bonds you would tell them NO.

We do need a city hall, and I am all for it, but not one that is going to cost us $28,000,000 + expenses, and one thats the citizens are consulted by referendum.”

It could also be that there really is no incentive in this commission to save any money but to spend as much as they can. Their concern is that unless they spend the money and invest it in this city, as a stimulus, then businesses would not want to come here. They are not coming here. That is the fact. So this policy has not worked. As a result, lower wasteful spending (including free lunches for the commissioners) and reduce our tax rate when there is a surplus.

Even more shocking here is the fact that our property values have increased lower than any other city in Broward County. If they had, we would be paying even more taxes, and no doubt the city would have increased their budget to make sure that it is spent.

The main reason residential property owners in Coral Springs are paying more on taxes as well, is because the city cannot count on increased revenues from commercial properties since those have not increased at all over the past two years, and have lowered over the past 5 years. While residential properties have risen, the commercial have fallen. This is because city commissioners have failed in trying to attract more businesses to Coral Springs. They have spent money needlessly on signs leading to the city and have done nothing to promote businesses and get good companies to move here. Putting all of their marbles in one hat, the city courted a Canadian pharmaceutical company to move here. It did not happen. In fact, no one at the city commission talks about this any more because it really was never something that we can count on. In fact, as Dan Daley put it at the last commission meeting “We have been attracting more than our fair share of massage parlors.” I agree with Commissioner Daley on this.

In addition to this 5 percent increase in taxes, water rates, garbage rates are increasing as well.

That is why we need to decide if we really have the right people representing our interests, and not theirs as our commissioners. If it were me, I would have rolled back the taxes, cut wasteful spending, put a referendum to the population asking them if they want to spend $28,000,000 on a new city hall, and given us all back the $1,000,000 through a 1 percent reduction in our tax rate. Not one of our services would have been affected.

After all, that is what elections are for, and I only hope you are paying attention.

About Howard Melamed

Howard Melamed is running for City Commissioner Seat #4 . Melamed is 22 year resident of Coral Springs.  He is a civil engineer and CEO of CellAntenna Corporation which has been located in Coral Springs since 1992. He is also editor of Coralsprings.com.

Should any candidate wish to provide editorial content to this website, in support or in contrast to this article we invite you to do so. 

About Howard Melamed

avatar Howard Melamed is a long-time resident of Coral Springs. He is a civil engineer and CEO of CellAntenna Corporation which has been located in Coral Springs since 1992. He serves on the City of Coral Springs Economic Development Advisory Committee and is the editor of Coralsprings.com.

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