Reconciling repaving in coming budget

Citrus County Commissioner Jimmie T. Smith, District 3

Citrus County Commissioner Jimmie T. Smith, District 3

It's almost budget time for the county, and in that, we have some tough choices to make about how we deal with how much money we collect in taxes and how we spend it.

First let me paint a picture of where we stand in the county, we have a growing population, with new home starts going up, our formerly foreclosed homes are being bought and resold, some of the people who have been trying to sell their homes have seen success and these are all factors to the increased property values we are seeing in our county.

So, if you can sell your land for more, the values go up and that is a good thing for you, or is it?

You see if your property is worth more you may have to pay more in property taxes, of course that also makes sense as you would profit from the sale if you sold it now because you can make more.

But should we tax you at the value of your property or should we do what's called a rollback and tax in such a way that would keep your taxes at close to last year's.

That's where the budget process is vital to making that choice, keep the caps and have more money for government or do the roll back and have what is close to our previous budget.

As most people know I am anti-tax and anti-spending and that's the reason for writing this article, because the discussion needs to happen as how to vote in the near future.

You see, I have always been anti-tax, because I have seen the wasteful spending of government and know that if you bring money into the government coffers, it will find ways to spend it.

Yet I have supported taxes being collected that go directly to single lines of spending, to insure proper and frugal government.

I asked at the past visioning meeting we held that if we don't do the rollback rate and allow for people to be taxed on the current value of their property, which would bring more money in, would anyone support all new revenue going ONLY to the road repaving program?

There was neither commitment or debate on the issue, but I still have the same question, but now to the community as a whole.

“Should we keep the millage rate the same, which would increase revenue if we had it directly focused, with all new money going ONLY to the road repaving program?”

The benefit would insure our road repaving program had a much needed injection of money, which improves our infrastructure and yet we wouldn't actually grow the government itself.

Another benefit is unlike a sales tax increase, we could also insure that if we were unhappy with it that during the next budget process we could without need of a public vote, simply stop it in the next budget process.

Where if in the future a sales tax is called for and passed, it would be almost impossible to change until it ran its course.

Let me be clear, none of us has moved for a sales tax during this Commission term, yet there is a major issue of our deteriorating roads and the need for increased funding, and some of the conversation has suggested a sales tax increase.

So, the question is again, “Should we keep the millage rate the same, which would increase revenue if we had it directly focused all new money ONLY on the road repaving program?” and also prevent the need of a sales tax increase.

Yet another problem is that in the past when we spent some of the money, we saw the worst roads being repaved, but no one lived on them.

So, we changed how we wanted it done, but now I've learned of another issue, that we are doing the roads by population density and then the roads that need repaving get fixed.

Problem is that this is not a weighted formula, all the areas that have a high density would get their roads paved even if there are roads worse off and of course this means the allocation of funds is not as properly focused as it should be.

So, I've asked staff to work on a weighted formula that would insure it's a true combining of both the road conditions and the population, which would then insure yet more appropriate spending.

So, we will in the future invest money in roads that have a higher population, which also will insure that if your road is worse but less people live on it, that it has just as good of a chance of repaving as a street with more people.

This is all to ensure that the money for repaving is properly spent and yet another reason why I'm starting to feel we could increase the funding and insure fairness as well as a bigger bang for our buck.

But should we allow for the millage rate to stay at the caps with the hope of proper investment in our infrastructure, I am never certain when it comes to government budgets and spending projects.

Because as a no new tax conservative, I recognize that this isn't a new tax and that it's based off the value of your property and at the same time I realize our infrastructure is falling to pieces.

The problem is that I can't support increased revenue if I can't see a direct and clear path to insure every single dollar is properly spent.

So, this article, just like my others, is to get you to ask your friends and family, talk about it in the community and be part of the conversation.

Jimmie T. Smith,
Citrus County Commissioner, District 3