High taxes hindering private sector growth in Volusia County
ORMOND BEACH -- As a member of Volusia Tax Reform in public testimony during 2009 county budget hearings in DeLand, I held up the yellow pages of the county phone book for that year and the previous one to show the County Council how high taxes were decimating the private sector listings in the commercial districts of the county. There was a net loss of one-quarter-inch in thickness. About 150 pages of listings.
Volusia County suffered a net loss of nearly 5,000 occupational licenses that year alone. In subsequent hearings, we implored the council to urge state legislators to privatize all hospitals here in Volusia County and to eliminate the three onerous hospital taxing districts which burden no other county in Florida. We also implored the council to state legislators to review the increasingly progressive property tax system that continues to punish the top quartile of property owners and private business that generate tax revenue.
This past January, we received an update from the county appraiser that shows nearly 35% of all land in Volusia County is off the tax rolls as it is owned by government or otherwise exempt organizations like churches and schools. Of the remainder, another 35% is basically off the tax rolls due to falling valuations meeting rising exemptions passed out to buy votes during prosperous times. This group contains all properties under $50,000 net taxable value after exemptions which limits the property tax revenue to under 15% of the total. The remaining 85% falls on the upper 25 to 30% of property owners who own property valued at 250K and above.
What this means is the property tax has become as progressive as the income tax. A fact only the progressives at Ivy League schools admire. They are taught you can raise taxes on the rich without limit and with no regard for the consequences.
We are seeing the consequences in Greece, California and here in Volusia County. The common bond is all three have twice the government that the tax base can support and the bureaucracy now is a self-sustaining monster.
The double whammy we've created attracts all the talented ambitious folks away from the private sector where they might have started or grown a business that added to the tax base. Instead they now find themselves trying to grow government and usually quite successfully. Government employment in Volusia County actually grew by 200 jobs in the past two years while private sector employment dropped by 2,500 in the same time period. We keep hearing that they've cut to the bone, but they've only cut the rate of growth by and large.
The end result of this willful blindness is the County and most of the Cities will propose significant millage rate hikes this year to try to make up the lost revenues. Until we have leaders who will look past the next election cycle nothing will change in Volusia County.
About the Blogger
Ed Connor is a board member of the Volusia Tax Reform and of the Florida Taxpayers Union. He is a 1964 graduate of the University of Calif. (Berkeley) in Civil Engineering.
He retired to Ormond Beach after a successful international career in design and construction of major golf course projects. He and his wife, Pam have lived in
Volusia County since 1989.