No One Has Decided Our Property Taxes

They will September 23, but they haven’t yet.

by Anne Mooney / August 31, 2020

You know that thing we get every year called a TRIM notice? You probably just got yours. It lets you know what your proposed property tax bill is. On the upper right-hand corner of the document is a box advising you, in all caps:

This lets you know, worst possible case, what your tax bill could be if the proposed millage rates from all those taxing authorities in the left-hand column pass. You’ll notice that the City of Winter Park is not the only taxing authority that wants your money, or that has tentatively raised the cap on their millage rate. Orange County and the school board are right in there.

Millage Rates Have Not Passed

With the exception of Winter Park debt, which has to do with the bond issues for the Public Safety complex and the Library-Events Center and is already fixed, those millage rates have not passed and will not pass until late September. This is just a notice so you’ll be prepared in case one or more of the proposed millage rates does go up. That’s why you are advised not to pay; it is not a bill.

That is why it is puzzling to see yard signs and email blasts from people who are in a position to know better claiming that this Commission has raised your taxes. This Commission has not done anything yet.

Early Campaign Literature from Former Commissioner Sprinkel

An August 25 email from hello@electsarahsprinkel.com proclaimed, “The Winter Park City Commissioners voted to raise your taxes – now, during the pandemic.”

Former Commissioner Sarah Sprinkel must know, after nine years on the Commission, that the Commissioners did not have all the information from the state and the county they needed to set a millage rate that would ensure a balanced budget. The Commission voted to increase the ‘not-to-exceed’ rate – the ‘cap’ — in case projected revenue shortfalls did materialize.

Ms. Sprinkel is in a unique position to know also that the millage rate is never ‘set’ until the second Commission meeting in September, just before the October 1 beginning of the new fiscal year.

City Budget Will Be Balanced

At the August 26 Commission meeting, Management & Budget Division Director Peter Moore announced good news from Tallahassee that the revenue shortfall would not be as great as expected, and that an increase may not be necessary.

One thing is sure: additional property taxes were never intended, as Sprinkel stated in her email, for ”. . .government funding (spending) above a balanced budget.”

Weldon Sets the Stage

In an August 16 email blast, presaging Sprinkel’s missive, former Commissioner Peter Weldon advertised “Stop Your Tax Increases” yard signs for anyone who wanted them – well in advance of any actual tax increase.

Weldon stated in his email: “Arguments in support of [the Commissioners’] vote to increase the millage rate include claims of better information by September, concerns about the city’s solvency and hurricane recovery costs, and comparisons of millage rates between cities. The truth is they just want to spend more of your money.”

Weldon’s email goes on: “So what is the truth about the tax increase?”

“The truth is that these four commissioners are spending your money on their pet projects while they fabricate justifications for raising your taxes.”

So what IS the truth about the tax increase?

The truth is, as of now, there is no tax increase. The Winter Park City millage rate will be established sometime after the five o’clock hour on September 23 by the Winter Park City Commission. Until then, nothing has happened.

 

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    By: Anne Mooney

    Anne Mooney has assumed the editorship of the Winter Park Voice from founding editor Tom Childers.

    Mooney got her start in New York as a freelance line editor for book publishers, among them Simon & Schuster and the Clarkson Potter division of Crown Books. From New York, she and her husband and their year-old toddler moved to Washington, D.C., where the two ran a newswire service for Harper’s magazine. “We called it Network News,” said Mooney, “because it was a network of the Harper’s writers, whose work we edited into newspaper style and format and sold to papers in the top U.S. and Canadian markets. We were sort of like a tiny UPI.”

    The newswire ceased operation with the death of Mooney’s first husband, but Mooney continued to write and edit, doing freelance work for Williams Sonoma cookbooks and for local publications in D.C.

    In 2005, Mooney moved to Winter Park, where she worked as a personal chef and wrote a regular food column for a south Florida magazine. She took an active interest in Winter Park politics and was there when the Winter Park Voice was founded. She wrote occasional pieces for the Voice, including the Childers bio that this piece replaces.

    The Winter Park Voice is one of a large number of “hyper-local” publications that have sprung up across the U.S. in response to the decline of the major daily newspapers and the resulting deficit of local news coverage. The Voice’sbeat is Winter Park City Hall, and its purpose is to help the residents of our city better understand the political forces that shape our daily lives.

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