Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Planners: Raise Our Taxes

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Planners: Raise Our Taxes

Article excerpt

Imagine an expressway loop extending from Interstate 10 down

Branan Field Road to Middleburg, then swinging eastward to a new

bridge across the St. Johns River linking Clay and St. Johns

counties en route to Interstate 95.

Picture traffic flowing smoothly on Blanding Boulevard, U.S.

17, County Road 220 and other major arteries that currently

experience heavy traffic.

Envision uncrowded schools and plenty of good jobs close to

peoples' homes, so they don't have to commute to Jacksonville

anymore.

All this is possible, economic development visionaries say, if

government agencies, businesses, homeowners and educational

leaders pull together to ensure a bright economic future for

Clay County.

"It's a long-term commitment to the future economic well being

of your community," said Steve Kelly, a consultant with Florida

Planning Group Inc.

But it won't be cheap.

Members of the county's appointed Economic Development

Committee and Florida Planning Group consultants met Tuesday

night with county commissioners and made a pitch for something

politicians usually abhor: raising taxes.

Not only should traditional taxes on property, gasoline and

consumer goods be increased, they said, but the county also

should impose occupational license fees and impact fees on new

development.

The tax proposals were part of an overall presentation that

included a lengthy Economic Development Program report prepared

by Florida Planning Group Inc.

"We've got to have the 1-cent sales tax, impact fees and

maximum ad valorem [property taxes] millage," said John

Kopelousos, a member of the Economic Development Committee and a

large landowner in the county. "My builder friends are going to

have my head. But that's tough."

The maximum property tax rate counties may levy is $10 for

every $1,000 of assessed taxable valuation. Currently, the rate

in Clay County is $8.45.

Kopelousos, an Orange Park attorney, said economic development

studies and discussion groups are fine as far as they go. But

money, lots of it, will be needed to bring new jobs-producing

industries to the county and provide an adequate infrastructure

of roads and drainage and schools.

"We might as well not have these meetings if we're not willing

to raise the money to do it," he said. "That's it, in a

nutshell."

The three county commissioners present -- Chairman Pat

McGovern, George Bush and Charles R. "Buddy" Griffin --

expressed mixed feelings toward the report, supporting some of

the goals but not necessarily the means to achieve them. …

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