It doesn’t look like the Emergency Services Surtax (ESS) is going away any time soon. It popped up again in the state of the county presentation. County staff has supported the proposal with some questionable assertions.
The ESS is being sold to the public as a tax “shift” that will benefit locals. It is certainly a “shift” but it definitely will not benefit most locals. In reality, it benefits the owners of properties with high taxable values. How high depends on how much they currently pay for fire service. There’s an overview of the ESS here. It also includes a discussion of “break-even” values.
Most of the folks that will truly benefit reside outside of the county. The “shift” actually increases the financial burden on most locals. Homesteaded properties typically have lower taxable values because of “Save our Homes” provisions and homestead exemptions. In most cases, locals will pay more in increased sales tax than they will save on property taxes. Local renters, of course, will save nothing on property tax.
I suspect that, in keeping with her track record, Carruthers was attempting to unfairly extract an excessive contribution from the Key Largo area. It is true that Key Largo will certainly be hard hit. But because of staff’s poor analysis Carruthers apparently didn’t realize that her own district, Key West, would be hit with the shrapnel. In fact, because Key West has a very high proportion of renters the financial impact on locals will be more significant there than in many other areas.
There are a couple of areas where the impact is less clear. I intend to take a closer look at…
- Stock Island, which has the lowest median household income in all of the Keys. It also has the highest the proportion of renters. However, Monroe County is the fire and emergency services provider for the area. That means very high costs. Because of these special circumstances, it’s hard to say how Carruthers’s proposal will impact this area. More analysis needed.
- Unincorporated Tavernier, which is also currently served by Monroe County. The citizens of Tavernier have recently pondered switching over to the Key Largo Fire and Rescue District (Fire District), whose millage rate is about one-third of the county’s. Carruther’s proposal changes the game a bit. At this point, it’s hard to say whether folks in the area will benefit more from the “shift” or from switching service providers. Running through the numbers will clarify things.
Unfortunately, the Real Poop suffered some technical difficulties and lost the calculations related to the ESS proposal. I’ll be reassembling that in the coming weeks and will have analysis available for Stock Island and Tavernier, too.
Good data is the basis for good decision-making.