Despite tax hike, nonprofits still face cuts

City Council proposes property tax increase

By Kumasi Aaron - Reporter/The Morning Show anchor

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Homeowners in Jacksonville are preparing to pay more in property taxes after the City Council proposed an increase Tuesday night to help balance the budget.

But it still leaves many nonprofits facing cuts.

"Perhaps we may have to change the hours of operation to accommodate for the funding changes," said Shariffa Spicer, vice president of external affairs for The Bridge of Northeast Florida. "It's going to be challenging for us as we move forward but right now we are still, its up in the air."

It's been a tough battle since Mayor Alvin Brown pledged not to raise taxes, instead suggesting cuts to police, fire and library funding.

The City Council reversed those cuts. With the proposal, the increase for the average homeowner next year would be from $75 to $200 a year.

But still many nonprofits helping the elderly and youth are facing that reality.

April Lindsey said she was nervous when she went to school at The Bridge, with the Alternative to Out of School Suspension Program. Now she can't imagine being anywhere else.

"If I didn't come here I wouldn't meet no generous people or people that care, and I wouldn't be where I'm at today and finishing up high school," Lindsey said.

It's run by Duval County Public Schools and The Bridge of Northeast Florida, a nonprofit focused on helping children in Jacksonville's toughest neighborhoods.

"We receive roughly anywhere between 60 to 65 percent of the funding from Jacksonville Children's Commission," Spicer said.

Now that funding is in jeopardy, Spicer said, because Jacksonville's Children's Commission is funded by the city and is facing budget cuts.

"We don't want the cuts to have to directly affect the students, but ultimately it's going to happen," Spicer said. "Does it mean that we're going to close our doors to students? No. But it does mean that we may have to limit the number of students that are served."

As for the proposed tax increase, those who have property with an assessed value of $100,000 and a $50,000 homestead exemption, under the proposed millage rate, they would pay $75 more in property taxes a year. That's about $6 a month.

A home assessed at $150,000 with a homestead exemption means an additional $150 a year, or about $12 a month.

Residents whose property is assessed at $200,000 with a homestead exemption would pay up to $225 more a year. That's about $19 more a month.

The rate could be lower once the budget is finalized later this month.

John Winkler, president of Concerned Taxpayers of Duval County, says the finance committee has already approved a budget $14.4 million below the proposed revenue increase. And he hopes council members will stay on track.

"There are people who have said that any time you have a potential revenue increase with taxes, government officials will find a way to spend every single penny that they can potentially spend," Winkler said. "That hasn't happened yet. We're afraid it might happen in the next two weeks."

Earlier this year, the city sent out notices of proposed property taxes for 2013. They include the tax rate the council tentatively set Tuesday night.

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