For several years the Board of County Commissioners has examined alternative revenue streams to address essential services.
Come Tuesday commissioners will provide themselves flexibility to seriously consider those alternatives in 2014 when they hold a public hearing at 9:30 a.m. ET in the BOCC meeting room.
During that hearing the board will consider a resolution which would put commissioners in position to pass during 2014 any measure to create a taxing mechanism for several pressing issues: mandatory garbage and the landfill, beach nourishment, road paving or stormwater problems, said county administrator Don Butler.
The resolution, which must be passed by Jan. 1 or by March 1 provided approval from the Tax Collector and Property Appraiser, would put in place the process for creating a Municipal Services Taxing Unit (MSTU) or Municipal Services Benefit Unit (MSBU).
The difference is in the levying.
An MSBU is based on a uniform fee – each property owner pays the same amount for a benefit, for example to have mandatory garbage pickup.
The MSTU is assessed on property value.
The local bonding mechanism for the beach nourishment project during the prior decade was through a series of MSTUs, with owners of gulf front property assessed a higher rate based on value than owners of inland property.
The resolution would provide commissioners – who already have a voter referendum on mandatory garbage assessment scheduled for November 2014 – the ability to act in 2014 – or not.
“I think it fits in our looking for added sources of revenue,” said Commissioner Warren Yeager, who added that he would only favor the additional revenue if balanced by a reduction of county property taxes.
Yeager has long stated a desire to place less of a burden on ad valorem taxpayers and more on the users of services.
Commissioner Ward McDaniel related a story about winemakers and wine drinkers and how those who drink the wine don’t stomp the grapes.
“It is time some of those tasting the wine to stomp some of the grapes,” McDaniel said. “We should at least draft it and have it on hand.”
County attorney Jeremy Novak and Butler noted that the resolution would only map the process and intent. It would be up to commissioners to formally pursue any option with due diligence and public input required.
“The resolution will lay out the steps to be taken,” Novak said. “There will be plenty of time for additional public input.”
Commissioners have considered a variety of ways to raise additional revenue in a time of declining property values and rising costs associated with the landfill and law enforcement.
Those have included additional gas taxes, increases in bed taxes and service fees.
None have found consensus among at least three commissioners.
Beacon Hill sign
The old Beacon Villa sign at the entrance to Beacon Hill Park Veterans’ Memorial Park finally came down last week, much to the relief of residents (see A5) and District 3 Commissioner Joanna Bryan.
“It was quite a project,” Bryan said. “I’ve had a lot of calls thanking us for bringing that eyesore down.”
The sign is to be stored at the Public Works yard and can only be reclaimed by owner Bill Williams after he reimburses the county for the costs of removal.
Butler said he had two recent meetings with Preble Rish Engineers, Inc. president/CEO Ralph Rish about the ditch project and reported to commissioners that Rish would craft a plan of action for submittal to the BOCC.
Butler said the plan should be “forthcoming” in a matter of days and he would bring the matter back to the board at its next meeting in January.
Commissioners approved a policy for information to be included in the bi-weekly Information Packet that accompanies each agenda, essentially establishing a work flow from public through staff to commissioners as final arbiters of what stays or goes.
The Information Packet will continue to be provided to the public with the agenda.
However, those items will no longer be sent out to the Clerk of Courts email blast list, Clerk Becky Norris said.
Since the files can be voluminous and are already posted on the county website, Norris said beginning in January that her office would no longer be disseminating the agenda and information packet by email.