Q&A – Accountability In South Florida Governments

Today’s question was submitted by Tim - When I listened to your segment on property taxes my blood pressure went up a couple of points. Property taxes are a sore point with me. 

I have a neighbor, he is a single male with no children. Whenever I mention property taxes to him, smoke comes out of his ears. The taxes imposed on schools. He does not have any children and says he does not plan on having any children. He feels that he should not have to pay taxes related to schools or school activities. In a way, I understand his point. What do you think bothers him the most about his property taxes?  

What really bothers me the most is where I live in rural West Palm Beach, we have an Improvement District. There is a tax on my property tax to help support the work they do in our area but, there is a second tax for the Improvement District debt. Hello, why am I paying taxes for an organization's debt? Why aren't they fiscally responsible and manage their budget efficiently? 

Bottom Line: Anytime I tee up property taxes it becomes a hot topic, for good reason, and once again that’s been the case over the past week. We all pay property taxes, even renters that aren’t really aware of how it all works, and in South Florida, we pay the highest property taxes in the state. Your note hit on many important themes that speak to my key frustrations with property taxes as they’re currently used in funding numerous organizations. As I pointed out last week, I pay property taxes to 16 different entities/interests and as well versed as I am on them, I still couldn’t name all sixteen right now. That’s all part of the problem with the lack of accountability in local government. 

First, to pick up on the point about your neighbor’s frustration. It’s one I share as well. Using the most recent Census estimates available for 2017, the percentage of the population over 65 was 16% in Broward and Miami-Dade and 24% in Palm Beach County. There are many more people who don’t have children but for the ease conversation, you have about 1 in 5 homes in South Florida owned by retirees who have to pay all of the same property taxes to maintain the roof over their head. The lion’s share of the money goes to services they’ve never used and will never be used by them and yet if they don’t pay them or can’t afford to, their only two choices are to sell their home and leave or have their home taken away by the local government. That’s never included in the materials advanced by local governments attempting to get you to buy into whatever the latest project is that’ll raise your already high taxes higher but it’s a reality for millions of South Floridians. 

This brings up a bigger point about the lack of transparency and accountability. You described your interaction with the local government employee you spoke with about your tax bill. Not only was there a lack of concern expressed,but you were also literally laughed at by someone who has their job because of the taxes you pay. It’s why I remind you from time to time that government employees work for us, not the other way around. The problem is that generally we have a complicity South Florida media and often ignorance by residents, as a result, that continues to allow these situations to persist. The key is to inform yourself, share the information with others and engage as appropriate. My cousin Jim was the County Manager in Collier county across the coast for years. I can tell you that there are local governments in Florida that care and are responsive, but we have an important role making that happen. 

Submit your question by one of these methods. 

Email: brianmudd@iheartmedia.com

Twitter: @brianmuddradio

Facebook: Brian Mudd https://www.facebook.com/brian.mudd1

Photo by: Luke Sharrett/Bloomberg via Getty Images

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