The Jacksonville City Council on Monday set a tentative property tax that does not include an increase, rejecting one councilman’s proposal to raise taxes.
By setting next year’s proposed maximum tax at this year’s rate, council effectively closed the door on raising taxes. If council later tried to raise taxes, state law would require the county property appraiser to send mailed notices to landowners, which would be a costly process.
Councilman Richard Clark made a last-minute attempt to raise taxes at Monday’s meeting, but it failed by a 6-12 vote.
Clark’s plan was to use the tax increase solely to pay off the city’s looming pension debt. He also wanted to use $61 million that the pension fund tentatively agreed to transfer to the city to resolve the $55 million in expenses that the Council Auditor has questioned in Mayor Alvin Brown’s proposed budget.
However, council members rejected Clark’s proposal, saying property owners alone shouldn’t carry the burden to pay off the pension debt.
Now, some on council are exploring the possibility of adding a half-cent sales tax referendum on this November’s ballot that would help pay off the city’s $1.65 billion debt to the Police and Fire Pension Fund.
Clark had responded that his proposal would not have precluded such a vote but simply provides a funding backstop for the city if voters don't approve a sales tax. That did not convince his colleagues.
Councilman John Crescimbeni acknowledged the sales tax may not pass voter scrutiny, but he said previous tax referendums have passed before with the support of the city's political leaders.
"We're 2-0 in the ballot box," Crescimbeni said.
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