TRIM will include County millage increase

On a motion by Ron Sanchez, seconded by Mark Miner, and unanimously approved by the St. Johns County Commission, the maximum millage increase of .75 will be the figure included in the TRIM notices that will be mailed to property owners this month.

Michael Wanchick announced that this morning’s budget presentation will be online before the end of the day so that residents can review the details on the county website.

The fact that the final millage rate will not be known until after additional public hearings and a vote in September was emphasized by each commissioner during their comments.

September 6, 2011 at 5:00 p.m. has been established as the first public hearing on the final budget for fiscal year 2012.

Director Doug Timms made his presentation to the Board in less than thirty minutes; however, public speakers consumed nearly two hours of this morning’s session.

Many private, non-profit organizations, whose county funding would be cut had the millage not been increased, made their cases for the millage increase; including Cathy Brown from the Council on Aging, Renee Morris from the St. Francis Shelter and Joyce Mahr from Betty Griffin House.

Also speaking in favor of the millage increase were members of Emergency Services Homeless Coalition, Learn to Read, Northeast Florida Community Action Agency, Early Learning Coalition and several library supporters.

Lt. Daniel E. Chitwood, Jr., spoke on behalf of Sheriff David Shoar who is attending a sheriff’s conference in Daytona Beach. Chitwood said that the 800 MHz UHF radios, which account for one-third of the .75 increase, are an “unfunded mandate” leaving emergency service agencies no option than to vacate the VHF frequencies used today.

Chitwood told commissioners “Thank you for taking a tough stand” and reassured the Board and audience that the communications link between deputies and dispatchers can make the difference between life and death.

Representatives from the St. Augustine Tea Party who object to raising the millage rate and contend that the county should simply figure out how to make do with the money they would receive, without the increase, held signs and some spoke during the public hearing.

Although it had not been the case during some town hall meetings, today, objectors to the increase were in the minority — almost all speakers were there in support of the higher millage assessment. “Sure,” one sign holder told Historic City News. “Everybody’s here with their hand out today.”

One speaker in favor of increasing the county millage by .75%, St. Paul A.M.E. Church pastor Ron Rawls, told the commissioners that the increase was what residents expect. Rawls said that he was the president of the local National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, active in the Juvenile Justice Council and other organizations in the community. “I represent thousands of people,” Rawls said. “Everybody here today is not represented by those two people out there holding signs.”

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