CLAY COUNTY, Fla. – As Clay County Sheriff Darryl Daniels makes a pitch for an additional $10 million to hire more deputies, one idea that's being discussed to fund the increase is a property tax hike on homeowners.
Currently, the millage rate in Clay County is 8.101, and commissioners recently voted to raise the maximum cap to 9.333 in case they couldn't find any other way to fund the Clay County Sheriff's Office's budget. Commissioners told News4Jax they are not in favor of raising the rate that much.
At a maximum, it would equal approximately $123 per year more on property tax rates for a $100,000 home, according to Commission Chairman Mike Cella.
"Most of the commissioners really don't have an interest in raising it past the 8.101 that we have now, but we do have to cover it in case the sheriff shows a need for that big an increase," Cella said.
Cella added that if the commission voted on a new budget without the tax increase and the sheriff didn't have the funding he needed, he could appeal to Gov. Ron DeSantis.
Daniels has said his department is short 47 deputies for a county the size of Clay County. He said his agency has also struggled with losing civilian personnel, such as dispatchers, and he said the St. Johns County Sheriff's Office and Naval Air Station Jacksonville pay more and have been attracting away his employees.
Some voters are leery of any more tax hikes because there have been other recent tax increases. In 2018, voters approved a property tax hike to help fund a new school board police department after the state mandated school security following the mass shooting in Parkland.
The Clay County School Board recently voted to add a half-cent sales tax hike resolution to the ballot. Commissioners did not approve that proposal and sent it back to the board. The school board filed a lawsuit and the case is ongoing.
News4Jax has heard from residents on both sides of the debate.
"I truly believe Clay County taxpayers need a (little) relief. Raising taxes is not always the answer. As someone that helps my parents pay property tax for three different properties, it's a lot and our older residents are on a fix(ed) income," wrote Julie Robson in the News 4 Clay County Facebook group.
Others disagreed. "I think it's a good idea," Bonnie Walker said. "We need more police protection. More coverage."
There are opportunities for the public to speak on the issue.
- Town hall at Clay County Public Library August 15 at 6:30 p.m.
- Public comment during commission meetings in Green Cove Springs on September 10 & 24