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That’s a Big ‘Oops’

Tom PattonJust when they thought it was safe to open their tax bills, residents of Jacksonville Beach have gotten a bit of a rude awakening. It seems their tax base was underestimated by $186 million.

The mistake will cost the ‘average homeowner’ (whoever that is) in Jacksonville Beach about $50, rather than the fractional tax decrease that was included in tax bills that went out last month.

It’s a sign of the times, I suppose. Nobody is escaping the “tax increase during a recession” that no one wanted to levy or pay. So, with unemployment holding stubbornly at around 10 percent and no end to the recession, other than academic, in sight, people are being asked to pay more for less, or at least the same.

The Jax Beach increase will amount to about 6%, which means the city can legally re-calculate the tax bills that have already been sent. It’s interesting that they make an allowance for errors in the tax assessment, and big ones at that.

But most of you know that those of us who choose to live on this side of the ICW pay twice anyway. We pay property taxes for Duval County, all the school taxes that everyone else pays, along with the assessments from the SJRWMD, and then local property taxes on top of that. We were exempt from the user fees the Jacksonville City Council passed a couple of years ago because we already pay for trash pickup and stormwater runoff. We’ve lived with those kinds of fees for years. It’s the price we pay for having independent police protection and in some cases fire departments, as well as our own city governments.

Back during the time of consolidation, the communities out here didn’t want to lose their autonomy, feeling that (perhaps with good cause) what makes the beach communities unique would be lost in the larger county government. It also lets the beaches communities write their own laws to deal with local issues. If you don’t believe that the most responsive government is the one that’s closest to its constituents, come out and observe one of the local city councils at work. It makes a difference when they’re your neighbors and friends, dealing with the same issues as everyone who lives in town. When it’s that close, it at least seems that you’re going to get some return on your tax dollars, though we send more to 117 W. Duval Street than is returned to us, just like Jacksonville complains that it sends far more to Tallahassee than is returned. There’s always a bigger fish somewhere in the ocean.

We in Neptune Beach already knew a tax increase was coming, from both Jacksonville and the local government. Talking with the members of some of the various local city councils, the beaches city governments are a microcosm of what’s happening downtown, with many of the same issues: Crime, public safety, and pensions to name a few. It’s unfortunate that the folks in Jacksonville Beach thought they were going to be the ones that dodged the tax increase bullet, but maybe a bit Pollyannaish to think so too. Property values have been on a steadily downward trend, there are dozens of unoccupied condos along First Street in Jax beach, as well as vacant lots where thriving businesses once stood. You’d think anyone looking at a potential tax cut, no matter how small, would take it with a grain of salt, but hope springs eternal.

The alternative for Jacksonville Beach was to cut spending more than a half-million dollars. Again, a microcosm of the Jacksonville City Budget. The Jacksonville Beach City Council will be holding a special meeting Wednesday night to tackle the issue.

If you live in Jax Beach, it might be a good night to attend.

1 Responses »

  1. At first I read this as "nude awakening". I figured maybe they were changing things around at the beach or something. Woohoo! 😀