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Jacksonville, FL (May 24, 2022) – In anticipation of next year’s budget bringing an historic increase of over $90 million dollars in new property tax revenue, Council Member Becton on April 12, 2022, introduced Resolution 2022-276, urging the City Council and Mayor to consider “rolling back the Millage Rate” to bring much-needed tax relief to Jacksonville area taxpayers.  At the Council Meeting on May 24, 2022, by a vote of 3 – 16, the resolution failed.

Voting For the Resolution: Council Members Becton, Diamond, and Ferraro

Voting Against the Resolution: Council Members Bowman, Boylan, Carlucci, Cumber, DeFoor, Dennis, Freeman, Gaffney, Morgan, Newby, Pittman, Priestly Jackson, Salem, White, Carrico, and Howland.

The Resolution, a first of its kind to address an upcoming budget versus waiting after the budget has been crafted and dollars appropriated, looked to be proactive and to initiate a conversation among the Council prior to its final preparation. The language of the Resolution was to consider the following: “The Council encourages the mayor to utilize estimated Ad Valorem Revenues generated under the Rolled-Back Millage Rate for the final annual budget proposal submitted to Council for fiscal year 2022-2023. The Council determines that given current economic conditions, the taxpayers of Duval County should receive economic relief in the form of a rolled-back millage rate providing lower Ad Valorem Assessments for fiscal year 2022-2023 versus using a Flat Millage Rate and that the City may be able to use other revenue sources outlined herein to offset the impact on the approved final budget.”

In introducing the Resolution, Council Member Becton stated the following:

“Today’s taxpayers are being stretched thin, watching their household incomes shrink due to our nation’s highest recorded inflation rate on record, over the past 40 years at 8.6%.  Our city is in a great financial position, and with this year’s recent approval of increases in gas taxes, sales taxes, and an anticipated $171 million of ARP funding that will be provided from the federal government, the city is also in a great position to give our taxpayers a break.  It is anticipated that most property owners will see a 3% increase (the cap) in property taxes due to the rise in home values, and given that fact, if there is a time to roll back our millage rate, I cannot imagine a time that would be any better than this year.

Let’s follow the State Budget’s lead of tax savings and give our taxpayers some relief. Let’s provide them what will be approximately a $35m tax benefit by perhaps 1) limiting our spending, 2) deferring capital improvements and 3) tightening our belt within city departments.”

During debate in both the Finance and Rules Committee meetings, Council Member Becton further stressed the need for giving Duval County residents tax relief in which he stated the following:

“Over the past year, we have heard from taxpayers and constituents within our county, how housing has become unaffordable due to the escalation of home prices and rents. Families and retirees have seen taxes raised and have seen over the past 7 years property tax increases, which cumulatively have exceeded 11%.

In addition to those many taxes, at the core of making things worse is the fact that our economy is a disaster.

Inflation is rampant at a 40-year high, interest rates are going up daily and family retirement accounts are seeing unprecedented declines, even worse than in 2020 when we closed our economy.

All these things are making basic needs difficult to afford, including among other things food and energy where gas prices are now at historical levels.

Increasing interest rates are also making home mortgages and rents more expensive, too. It’s not uncommon to hear rents increase by $200 a month or more, and as home borrowing already is seeing rates above 5%, that translates to over $300 a month on a $225,000 mortgage.

This Resolution was an attempt to have a serious discussion and a strategic policy conversation about our upcoming 2022-2023 Budget and to look at giving our taxpayers relief by limiting additional taxes!

That is why I am asking you to consider this resolution, urging the mayor as he works to present us a budget in July, to look at “rolling back our Millage Rate” and providing the taxpayers of our county some relief.

As I presented this resolution in committee, it was certain that, at a minimum, property taxes would rise to the maximum 3% cap which would be a 10-year high.  As of today, the property appraiser has provided new early projections indicating that Ad Valorem taxes will not only reach our typical increase of $40 – $45 million for the year, but for 2022-2023, it is now estimated that we will see another historic increase of OVER $90 MILLION DOLLARS in additional Ad Valorem taxes. This will effectively be an 11.3% increase for just a single year!

As the legislative body, it is our role to be the fiscal policy branch of our government and to direct policy of this nature.  Therefore, it is not only proper but it’s our obligation to weigh in on these decisions just like we did in our strategic plan.

As you consider this resolution, let me remind you, rolling back the Millage Rate does not mean our budget will be revenue neutral, but completely to the contrary:

–     Beyond increases from Ad Valorem taxes from new construction, home sales, non-homestead properties which last year alone brought in approximately $20 million dollars;

–     Other sources of revenue will bring in millions more from sources like the ½ Cent Sales Tax, State Shared Revenues, Utility Service Taxes and JEA Contributions.

–     Additionally, we will also see increases received from the Gas Tax legislation which was passed;

–     And let’s not forget, next year we will again be seeing $171m from the Federal Government in ARP funding which was used last year for various expenditures within our budget;

While you consider these facts and this policy recommendations, let me end with this – it’s not only about residential properties but it is also about our business community. Businesses properties are being affected even more with increases up to 10%.

–     When concerns are expressed about increasing rents and increasing costs of commodities, EVERY INCREASE IN EXPENSES, will cause prices to go up. (payrolls, cost of goods, energy, and yes, taxes).

–     It’s a domino effect that must be addressed somewhere.

–     As taxes go up, those costs are only going to get passed onto the consumer!

It is for these reasons and more that I ask you to join me in passing this resolution, urging the mayor to make it a reality in crafting a budget based on a “Rolled-Back Millage Rate” for our taxpayers, providing them relief in the coming year.”

While the bill fell short of passage, Council Member Becton is still committed to fighting for Duval County Taxpayers in getting a well-overdue tax break in 2022-2023.

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By Joe Johnson, District 11 Executive Council Assistant and CM Danny Becton.