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Leesburg commission expected to vote on property, utility tax

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LEESBURG, Fla. - Dozens of residents are expected to pack a community center in Leesburg where the city commission is expected to vote on a proposed property and utility tax hike on Monday.

Last week, business owners set up signs across the city and started a petition drive against the taxes.

WFTV's Berndt Petersen was outside the meeting and found residents standing their ground against the proposed hike.

The turnout at the meeting was sparked by local business owners who put up signs and started a petition drive with a plan to put some pressure on elected officials.

"There's nobody in favor of this other than a handful of people on the commission and some of the city leaders," said business owner Chet Blackmon.

Blackmon and several colleagues are fighting proposed property and utility rate hikes. The city faces a budget shortfall of $1.7  million. The tax increase would cost the owner of a $100,000 home an extra $80 a year, with a 1.2 percent bump in utility rates on top of that.

"I can barely afford to pay my utility bills now," said resident Theresa Graham.

Graham hopes residents will jam the city commission meeting to pressure officials to back off.

"I'm trying to get all my neighbors to come out and everybody because it needs to be stopped," she said.

City leaders expected a big crowd, which is why the meeting was moved from City Hall to the community building.

The city commission chamber at City Hall has a maximum occupancy of only 80 people.

Officials have already cut 85 jobs over the last five years, but Blackmon said they need to cut some more.

"I think they are finding there are ways to cut, and they're not going to be pleasant. When they come up with these ideas, I don't think they'll be popular with a lot of people, but it's got to happen," he said.

The meeting will likely go late. WFTV will update this story as more details become available.