SANFORD CITY COUNCIL: Residents speak out against proposed tax increase

Jun. 05, 2013 @ 06:06 PM

The resounding cry from Sanford residents who spoke during the city's Tuesday budget hearing was clear — city council should not raise property tax rates.

Seven people spoke during the 7 p.m. public hearing for the city's proposed $44.2 million for fiscal year 2013-2014, which begins July 1. All said they did not want to see the city raise property tax rates.

The city's current property tax rate is 54 cents per $100 valuation, but after the 2013 property tax revaluation, the property tax rate of 51 cents per $100 valuation is considered revenue neutral for the city. The proposed property tax rate for the coming fiscal year is 58 cents per $100 valuation, or a seven cent increase from revenue neutral.

The city should be the people's servant, said Sanford resident Sheila Barber during the public hearing. Instead, she said, it seems the city is more interested in making the residents work for them.

"These are not good economic times," Barber said. "I don't know what fantasyland people are living in, but I am from realityville. Any tax increase is going to burden my family."

Charles Staley, chairman of the Lee County Republican Party, asked why the city was going to raise taxes when they have more than $9 million in its fund balance.  Sanford is only required to maintain a 7 percent, or an estimated $3.5 million, in its fund balance, he said.

"If we use some of that fund balance, we won't have to raise taxes," he said.

Sanford Finance Director Melissa Cardinali said there is no legal or state threshold for the city's fund balance. However, once the funds dip below 7 percent, she said the state becomes alarmed with the city's financial status. Sanford's fund balance is below the state average and other cities with a similar size to Sanford, she said.

Several people also asked the council why it was funding the Sanford Municipal Golf Course while raising taxes.

"I don't know anyone who is saying, 'We need a golf course,'" said Sanford resident Randy Todd. "I've got an idea, take the golf course and turn [it] into upscale homes."

The money generated from the sold houses and additional tax revenue would help the city coffers, he said.

Max Dolan, former Lee County Commissioner candidate, asked for council to consider seniors on fixed income and to dip into the fund balance.

"Sanford needs to be using some of its rainy day money," he said. "And it is pouring outside, economically."

No action on the budget was taken by the council.