Some commissioners, residents disagree over need for Lake County property tax hike

Updated:

LAKE COUNTY, Fla. —

Homeowners in Lake County could see their property taxes jump by around $100 this year after the county commissioners hiked the millage rate in an effort to make up for a budget shortfall.
 
The 18 percent rate increase wasn't popular with many residents. Even though commissioners said the final tax rate won't be that high.
 
The County Commission met before a packed house, with much of the crowd fuming over the property tax hike.
 
"You have to cut. You can't keep spending," one resident told commissioners.
 
The county budget is shaping up to be $15 million short, but some said the only way out is to tax their way out.
 
"Eighteen to 20 percent is a stick of dynamite, ladies and gentlemen," county resident Gary Youngblood said at the meeting.
 
But without that 18 percent millage increase, some county leaders said they'll have no choice but to impose a scorched earth policy.
 
"Cutting the departments as much as 40 percent, which would result in eliminating 30 to 40 positions," said County Manager David Heath.
 
County leaders have already cut more than 160 jobs in recent years. Some at the meeting said if there are any more job cuts no one will want to move to Lake County.
 
"Do we want to be thought of as the best place to live, or be known as the cheapest place to live?" said County Commissioner Welton Cadwell.
 
While most on the commission agree a tax hike is necessary, they don't want to go with the full 18 percent. Commissioner Leslie Campione insists this is not the time to raise taxes at all.
 
"We're painting a picture that is horrible. I don't think it's that bad," said Campione.
 
There is a chance that the 18 percent hike with be short-lived. Final budget hearings are in September.  If the millage rate hike is to be rolled back, that's where it will have to happen.