Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Property Tax Hike Seen as Unlikely; but Plans for Tax Relief for Landowners Is Also Gone, Commissioner Says

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Property Tax Hike Seen as Unlikely; but Plans for Tax Relief for Landowners Is Also Gone, Commissioner Says

Article excerpt

Byline: BETH REESE CRAVEY

The Clay County Commission is unlikely to call for a property tax increase to fund the cleanup of illegal dumping at borrow pits run by the county Public Works Department, said Commissioner Patrick McGovern.

"I am committed to holding the line on taxes and I'm confident we can achieve that," he said during an appearance at a Monday night citizens forum.

But a tax rollback the commission had hoped to give property owners for 2005-06 will not be forthcoming either, McGovern said.

"We had hoped to reduce the millage [property tax] rate this year. There is no way that is going to happen," he said. "There is no doubt, there is going to be an impact. I will not dodge that in any way, shape or form."

McGovern gave a prepared statement and answered questions at the second forum sponsored by Citizens for Term Limits and Accountability, a Clay County government watchdog group. About 100 people attended the forum, many of them angry about the dumping and other related issues and happy to have a county official willing to accept their verbal slings and arrows.

"We asked some hard questions," said Jane Padgett, the group's co-founder. "He stood up . . . didn't even flinch."

In his statement, McGovern said that after preliminary testing at the 11 borrow pits, county officials are more optimistic about the cost of the cleanup than they were after the dumping was uncovered in March.

Contamination from the dumped materials, which include chemically treated timbers from the old Shands Pier, has not "migrated" beyond the borders of the pits and is not thought to be toxic, as had been feared early on. The projected cost, once "an infinitesimal variable," is now in the $1 million to $6 million range.

The cleanup is expected to last two to three years, he said.

Still, McGovern warned that those projections are based on preliminary information and could be proved incorrect once excavation gets under way.

"That could change with the scoop of a shovel," he said.

McGovern apologized for accepting former Public Works Director Arthur Ivey's assurances that waste such as the Shands Bridge timbers were being disposed of properly. …

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