Comm. Heather Carruthers proposed the Emergency Services Surtax (ESS) back in January. The idea was to “shift” more of the cost burden of fire and emergency services from locals to tourists. Unfortunately, the “white paper” written to support this proposal didn’t contain enough evidence to show that this is really how it would work. To make matters worse, county staff was extremely reluctant to answer questions or verify statements made in the “white paper”.
So I did my own digging. The results of all that can be found here. According to my research, low-moderate income locals would actually pay more. Essentially, the justification for the ESS turned out to be false. The ESS wouldn’t help most locals at all. It would hurt them. A lot. Especially renters.
That got me wondering again. If Carruthers wasn’t out to help locals, then what was this “tax shift” really all about? As it turns out, Carruthers and some of her 2012 campaign donors would have enjoyed a sizable property tax discount if the ESS had gone through. I don’t think anyone is shocked by this. But there was one campaign donor I missed and it’s a big one – a hotel at 1319 Duval Street.
In 2014, which is the year I analyzed, that property had a taxable value of $21.3 million. Carruthers’s tax “shift” would have saved this particular property owner over $30,000 per year. The property has changed hands since 2012 and is no longer owned by the company that made the campaign donation.
The ESS is supposedly “dead” now, but it wouldn’t take much to revive it. Locals definitely need to be aware of the effect that this “tax shift” really would have had on them.