November 10, 2017 at 10:39 am

What Bugs You The Most?

WHAT BUGS YOU THE MOST?

There Are Many Issues Bubbling Beneath The Surface

Like most of you, Hurricane Irma drew our attention away from local government for a while.  As we refocus on the issues, there are some really odd things happening.  We want to know from you—what bugs you the most?  You can respond on our website or Facebook page, but the discussion needs to begin.

To get the conversation going, here are some issues that are bugging people in Lake County:

  • The broken promise by the Lake County Commission to lower property taxes.
  • The vote by the Lake County Commission to assess vacant lands with a fire tax.
  • The slow and poorly organized pick up of trash and debris after Hurricane Irma in Lake County.
  • The Lake-Sumter Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) scandal that is creating a split between Lake and Sumter Counties because of Lake County’s continued support of controversial Director T.J. Fish.
  • The controversy of possibly adding another Wekiva Parkway interchange near Mount Plymouth at a price of $20 million.
  • Lake County filing a lawsuit against the state of Florida because the Infrastructure Sales Surtax Referendum (Penny Sales Tax renewal) it shoved through in 2015 is too broad and too vague after the state redefined the uses in 2016.

The two issues that bug us the most are the broken promises of lower property taxes and Lake County’s lawsuit against the state of Florida.

Like many of you, we are tired of the broken promises by politicians who will say anything to get elected.  Shame on the Lake County Commission for breaking their promises and basically continuing the failed leadership of the previous board.

When Lake County politicians rushed approval of the Penny Sales Tax renewal in 2015 in an off-year election with poorly defined uses and promises to groups they couldn’t keep, we knew it would be trouble.  The amount of money and the shenanigans being implemented to get the measure through were very troubling.  Well, they got caught when the state of Florida in 2016 clearly defined what infrastructure projects this money can be used for, because so many municipalities were abusing the system.  The money is to be used for real infrastructure not some local politician’s pet project.

We decried at the time the future money was not being properly allocated and it would become a slush fund for nonsense projects.  It seems the state of Florida has agreed with us.

Now, Lake County is spending $25,000 in a lawsuit to defend itself because the ballot measure was too vague.  The way this ballot measure was handled in 2015 may open up Lake County to a class action lawsuit, if not properly resolved.

In our view, the monies collected from the Penny Sales Tax should be held in escrow and the measure put back on the ballot for a vote in 2018 with clear infrastructure designations spelled out to the people.  Lake County should be forced to follow state law and spend the money wisely!

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July 25, 2017 at 11:33 am

More to Lake County Fire Assessment Tax Grab

What About Fire Impact Fees and the Penny Sales Tax?

On Tuesday, July 11, 2017, the Lake County Board of County Commissioners voted to impose a $50 fire assessment on parcels of vacant land, with Commissioners Josh Blake and Sean Parks voting against this tax.  Agricultural lands and “unbuildable” sites will be exempted.  Politicians prefer to call it an assessment, but when an assessment takes $1 million out of the pockets of local citizens it is a tax.  A final vote on this ordinance will take place at a public hearing on September 12, 2017.

The men and women of Lake County Fire Rescue are dedicated, hardworking employees who should get paid more.  However, this can be said of a lot of professions today.  One of the biggest problems since the Great Recession has been that wages remain stagnant and when figured with real inflation are depressed.  Most people deserve to make more money, but due to continued growth in government regulations and taxes, most small businesses are struggling to keep the lights on.

Another aspect of this debate, which is conveniently left out by the politicians, is fire impact fees.  Lake County’s fire impact fees are very high and the purpose of these fees is to build fire stations and provide the infrastructure for the fire service.  Every new home built in Lake County is charged $390 for fire impact fees.  The fire impact fees for commercial projects are outrageous.  A retail establishment will pay a whopping $1,301 per thousand square feet in fire impact fees.  A 5,000 square-foot doctor’s office will pay $6,505 in fire impact fees.

In 2015, when the citizens of Lake County were forced to pay $400,000 for a special election on the renewal of the Penny Sales Tax, many of the same Lake County Commissioners campaigned for it because the county needed better fire protection.  In fact, in March a news release by Lake County government announced three fire trucks were purchased because of the Penny Sales Tax.

The main source of revenue for fire protection are property taxes, which were increased 14 percent in 2014.  One of the main drivers for this whopping increase by the Lake County Commission was that they had to give raises to first responders, including the fire and sheriff’s departments.  Don’t you remember the public safety card being pulled out to justify this increase?  The vote for that tax increase is one the main reasons Commissioners Welton Cadwell and Jimmy Conner were voted out of office.

There is all kinds of money going into fire protection and this is just another example of irresponsible governance by the Lake County Commission.  Instead of trimming non-essential spending or being more efficient, the politicians immediately go to pick the pockets of the taxpayers.  Plus why is anyone being charged a fire tax for base service, especially those with vacant land?  Doesn’t that seem patently unfair?

This is just the first attempt to raise taxes by this bunch now that the Commission has hired professional bureaucrat Jeff Cole as the new County Manager.  The only thing professional bureaucrats are skilled at is wasting money and raising taxes.

What does this say about the Lake County Commission?  All of the Commissioners claim to be fiscally conservative Republicans who want to cut government, but their actions show otherwise.  If the Lake County Commission votes to impose a fire tax on vacant land, then they are no better than any of the other past political failures in Lake County.

If you look at all the money earmarked for fire protection in Lake County, how in the heck can anyone justify a fire tax increase?

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