BEACON PHOTO/ELI WITEK THE MEETING THAT WASN’T — Lake Helen Mayor Daisy Raisler and City Commissioner Jim Connell are seated on the dais for a Lake Helen City Commission meeting that didn’t go forward Aug. 25, with two city commissioners out with COVID-19 and a third, Rick Basso, on vacation in Alaska. Kelly Frasca and Roger Eckert were on hand to attend the meeting virtually, but the rules require that a quorum of commissioners attend in person. Columnist Tanner Andrews points out that while Lake Helen’s proposed tax rate is 6.85 mills, a number of special assessments charged by the city create a much larger tax burden.

Fall is here. You know what that means: time to find out how much our taxes will increase. Just about every unit of local government wants more money this year.

It is not just local government, either. We are far from Palatka. There, Gov. DeSantis’ political appointees on the Water Management District want to raise their taxes by 4.48 percent, which is to say, over thrice the amount of the Social Security increase for inflation.

Feel like a longer road trip? In Jupiter, the Florida Inland Navigation District board is also appointed by the governor. They plan to increase taxes by 4.58 percent. Fortunately, their base millage is small, almost as small as the portion of the public that sees any benefit from them. The gas for a trip down there to talk to them would burn up any savings that might be had.

Closer to home, the county is increasing its millages, and many cities are doing likewise. For instance, DeLand is up a bit over 6 percent; Lake Helen, a bit over 5 percent.

The thing officials hate is hearing from citizens unhappy about the tax increases. They do not have to pay attention, and generally do not, but they have to sit there and pretend to listen. That gets old.

Which brings us to the back side of my TRIM notices. The county has an automatic increase in the garbage tax, no hearing needed, so annoying citizens will please shut up.

Lake Helen is the most spectacular, however. They have “special assessments” to double the city tax burden. These automatically increase, with no need for hearings with bothersome citizens. The garbage tax is going up only 4 percent, while the rain tax goes up about 10 percent and the fire tax goes up 7 percent.

Figure a $100,000 homestead, with $50,000 exempt. Lake Helen’s front side tax of 6.8500 mills is “only” $342.50, but the extra taxes hidden on the back side add $546.47 to that bill. Amazing, isn’t it? No wonder they do not have hearings on these special tax increases.

These things are not scaled to the value of the property, either. A guy with a million-dollar home pays the same extra tax as the widow with a shack. Some people might call that regressive, but it shows what they are thinking in the halls of government — it is time to update the “Robin Hood” model.

— Andrews is a DeLand-area attorney and a longtime government critic. For purposes of the column, he finds it convenient that there is so much government to criticize.


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