The answer may surprise you. With yesterday’s post about the possibility that local property tax revenues may actually decrease throughout the state, I found this discovery rather enlightening.
One of the obsessive compulsive disorders that began during the 1990’s in Jacksonville was the annual slashing of the City’s millage rate. Local politicians touted Jacksonville as a “leader” in the fight for lower property taxes while ignoring any repercussions that might result from year after year of tax cuts. During this time, Jacksonville has seen murder rates skyrocket and funding for social services programs slashed.
Now, to be certain, not all Jacksonville tax dollars have been spent wisely. We’ve seen tens of millions awarded to companies who promised Jacksonville the world, but have many times failed to deliver. We’ve also seen millions wasted on shoddy construction management, such as the case with cost overruns at the Main Library and the ongoing debacle of the Duval County Courthouse. Nevertheless, the City now finds itself in a situation where these millions have already seeped out the door with no hope of recovery, and now, with crime soaring and social services needs at record levels, the City has no funding to assist in the areas that need it most.
Interestingly enough, Jacksonville property taxes truly are lower than those of Baldwin. Yes, Baldwin (pop. 1,634), has higher property taxes that the “bold new City of the South.” The disparity in the two has grown even more significant since consolidation. In 1979, the difference between the two districts was .0451, but by 2008 it had grown to .9915.
How a City of 800,000 could possibly expect to provide the services required of the largest City in Florida on a millage rate nearly 100 basis points lower than its tiny neighbor is truly astonishing.
However, before our Mayor and City Council rush to convince citizens that there truly is a need to end the incessant millage rate cuts, perhaps they could demonstrate their ability to properly manage the existing revenue they do receive. When citizens see an end to wasted millions, perhaps they will be more willing to accept the reality that effective government cannot truly be done “on the cheap.”