Monday, July 25, 2011

Let The People Vote - Part 3!!!

In the last blog I wrote, "Let The People Vote - Part 2," I mentioned how Council Member Kristine Isnardi rightfully pointed out the potential legal danger of an excessive fire fee being implemented without the consent of "We The People." If you haven't read it, there's a short video where she explains this, briefly.

Mayor John Mazziotti - one of the members of City Council opposed to this fire fee along with Kristine Isnardi - was recently interviewed in Florida Today saying that cuts and re-prioritizing the budget is a solution to the economic woes that the City should consider, but a $300 fire fee "is not workable." Kudos to the Mayor and Kristine Isnardi who have been champions in this fight against excessive taxation.

We should remember that such an excessive fee along with a spike in property tax can not only send tax-paying residents packing, but can also further cripple our local economy - on top of the quagmire we're experiencing from Washington and Tallahassee. It's bad enough that we're about to lose a few thousand employees county-wide due to the space shuttle program being shut down, but how much more fuel can be thrown in the fire with this absurd revenue-grabbing fee that only serves the purpose of the few at the expense of the many.

So far, the poll on the top left side of the blog has over 80% of Palm Bay residents eager to vote those Council Members, who vote for this outrageous new tax, out of City Council. But no other venue has really exhibited the frustration of the hard-working tax-payers of Palm Bay than the new Facebook group called "Ax the Palm Bay Fire Tax." With well over 250 members - since the date of this blog - and growing rapidly, Palm Bay residents are venting there concerns of how this new tax will affect their livelihood. the consensus is that residents don't want their taxes raised or a new tax (i.e. fee) implemented, but that City Council should look at cuts that should be made in light of these current economic times.

Every effort should be made, on behalf of Palm Bay tax-payers, to contact their City Council Members and let them know you feel about the new fire fee, raising property taxes, and not making any significant cuts that mirror the current revenue flow that is creating the kind of budget woes we're experiencing. 

If the people speak as one voice, we can deter this disaster awaiting to happen. The least City Council can do is to Let The People Vote!!!

Friday, July 22, 2011

City wrestles with budget woes

By Dan Garcia

PALM BAY - If you think there will be any fat in the proposed city budget for the upcoming fiscal year, you are mistaken, city officials said.

In preparing the upcoming 2011-12 budget, city officials said their budget is already based on bare-bones revenues.

Meanwhile, operating costs continue to increase, forcing the city to cut spending and raise the tax rate.

City studies charging residents a 'fire fee'

By Dan Garcia

PALM BAY - You may have to pay a "fire fee" to the city of Palm Bay - whether or not you ever have a fire.

Strapped for funds just like any other municipality, the city is considering imposing a separate fire fee that would help make up for a shortfall in tax revenue, city officials said.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Another ATF Arms Sales Scandal: 'Operation Castaway' by James Heiser

by James Heiser

The new scandal centering on the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) makes it clear that “Operation Fast and Furious” was not the agency’s only program for putting firearms into the hands of foreign criminals. It is becoming clear that a second misguided effort to track arms sales to the Third World – “Operation Castaway” – ended up supplying weapons to criminals in Honduras and Puerto Rico which were used in violent crimes.

Operation Castaway – like its sibling, Operation Fast and Furious – began with the purported mission of decreasing the illegal sale of firearms. In the latter operation, the ATF’s Phoenix office used gun stores in the Southwest to track so-called “straw purchases” that placed firearms in the hands of foreign criminals. (In a “straw purchase,” a person, usually an American citizen, buys firearms with the intention of reselling them to individuals who cannot legally own them.) “Operation Castaway” allegedly operated in Florida with a similar mission, and ended in the same way: Rather than the "sting" operation being contained in a way that would have prevented the weapons from getting into the hands of foreign criminals, the firearms purchased in Florida flowed freely into Central America.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Most Residents Opposed To New Fire Fee

Fire fees proposal divides Palm Bay City Council

Palm Bay resident Lew Richards supports the work of firefighters and understands that the city's budget is stretched, but in belt-tightening times for many in the city, he won't get behind a proposed fire fee.

Read More...|head

Friday, July 8, 2011


Here we are, once again, demanding from our elected public servants the right that our forefathers have fought for and shed blood, sweat, and tears: LET THE PEOPLE VOTE!

Is there anyone else on our City Council that believes in the VOICE of the People other than Council Member Kristine Isnardi and Mayor John Mazzioti? Why not LET THE PEOPLE VOTE? Unless an individual on the City Council have a personal agenda that is against the will of the masses and in the best interest of the few. This most certainly takes the term "General Welfare" to a whole new level - more like "Specific Welfare." The people don't have a say in the matter, and that's that! Right?

The video below is only 13 minutes long:

Council Member Kristine Isnardi rightfully brings up Article VI, Section 6.02 of the City Charter which states:

"Before the governing body for the city may levy ANY special assessment involving more than fifty (50) property owners or involving a project expenditure of greater than twenty-five thousand dollars ($25,000.00), the proposed assessment must first be approved, in writing, by a majority vote of the affected property owners who return a ballot."

The key word as she intelligently points out is "ANY." If a $300 firefighters fee is imposed on the home owner's of Palm Bay it would be categorized under Non-Ad Valorum Assessments, which is defined under Florida Statutes, Title XIV, Chapter 197.3632, as:

(d) “Non-ad valorem assessment” means only those assessments which are not based upon millage and which can become a lien against a homestead as permitted in s. 4, Art. X of the State Constitution.
(e) “Non-ad valorem assessment roll” means the roll prepared by a local government and certified to the tax collector for collection.
Since "ANY" special assessment (that means ALL assessments) would fall under Non-Advolerum Assessment, then according to our municipal charter, the firefighters fee has to be approved by the electorate of Palm Bay.

Otherwise, imposing this fee without our approval would be illegal and nullified and any collected fees would have to be returned to Palm Bay homeowners. (This process would cost the city even more money). Of course, if it were not a Non-Advolerum Assessment then it would simply be a voluntary fee that individual homeowners may or may not participate. 
The City Council voted, 4 to 1, for the proposed tax hike of 9.0 Mil (or a 20% increase). The $300 firefighters fee is tabled until legal opinion is obtained by the local circuit courts. Public hearing will be held on:

Tuesday, September 6, 2011 at 6:30 p.m., and then on
Thursday, September 22, 2011 at 6:30 p.m.

It behooves us to contact our elected public servants on the City Council before these dates and to attend these public hearings, as well. As Council Member Kristine Isnardi eluded to in the meeting, there will be many more foreclosures as a result of this tax increase/added fee which if it were not for this revenue-grabbing thievery, can save taxpayers hundreds of dollars a month and can go towards mortgage payments and actually keeping our homes, instead of losing them.


Harry Santiago Jr.  

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Hefty Taxes For Palm Bay Residents

On July 7th our City Council will have a special meeting on just how high our tax-rates will go. Here are some examples:

Current Millage Rate         7.50        $19,432,409
Proposed Rate                  9.00        $23,318,891
Roll-Back Rate                 9.68        $25,072,731

Note: The word "Roll-Back" is a double-think speech designed to make you perceive that a higher tax rate in the face of declining home values is justified. (If you're willing to buy into this terminology, then I got some beach front property on Mars I'm selling if you're willing to pay into that, as well). It is simply an increase in our tax rates.

According to Brevard County Property Appraiser, our gross taxable value decreased by $744,004,478 (or 29%). I believe the real drop is much more than this because the decrease in residential properties is more than the decrease in commercial properties. This is illustrated on the Brevard County Appraiser's website. Property values in Brevard County has declined by 42% for all properties from 2008 to 2011.

Considering that Palm Bay's gross taxable value have decreased in one year by more than two-thirds of what Brevard County Total Properties' market value have lost in three years, I would say that Palm Bay residential properties are making a harder-than-usual decline. 

When you take into consideration Palm Bay's plummeting home values along with 10.5 percent unemployment and Kennedy Space Center laying off 1,900 people by July 22nd of this year, I think the last thing we should be talking about is raising tax rates and adding fees.

In fact, if we raise tax rates alone, in spite of the lower property values, it will cause six things to happen in Palm Bay in the next few years:

(a) Property values will continue to decline and then stagnate at a certain low

(b) Homeowners will leave and the city will depopulate

(c) Investors will prefer to risk their capital in other cities with lower tax-rates and less or no fees

(d) The lack of capital and new home buyers will continue to erode the city's economy and go bankrupt

(e) Businesses will pack up and leave causing massive unemployment

(f) Crime will exponentially increase

In case you think I'm exaggerating, this has already happened to other cities around the United States. Economist Dr. Stephen J.K. Walters and Historian Louis Miserendino wrote a paper for the Maryland Journal called "How To Make Baltimore A Superstar City" where these two gentlemen researched, what they called, "THE GREAT EVACUATION OF BALTIMORE... between 1950 and 2008" In this great analysis they compare Baltimore to two other cities that also saw massive depopulation, as well: Boston and San Francisco. 

In this paper they described how all three cities saw double digit declines in population, jobs, and exponential jump in crime. However, between the years 1980 and 2000, only San Francisco and Boston saw a major come-back in population, jobs, and falling crime, whereas Baltimore continued to do worse. The common denominator for San Francisco and Boston's success was lower tax rates. Baltimore raised tax rates, thinking that lower property values would compensate for the revenue-grabbing municipality. In fact, Dr. Walters make a great point, saying:

"Those who argue that property taxes “don’t matter much” frequently cite Baltimore’s
generally lower property values as an offset to the city’s higher tax rate. In a
world where property never decays, or where owners do not care about future returns
on their investments, this argument might have some merit; in the real world, it is nonsense."

It's actually quite simple: higher property values are a result of lower tax rates and lower property values are a result of higher tax rates. Now, add a fee to higher tax rates and you can kiss your "bedroom community" goodbye. As the declining property values erode home equity, so will renovations and upgrades diminish overtime. Real property equity is an integral part of an investor's credit establishment to further expand their operation - which in turn creates more jobs. Without the incentive of lower tax rates, the real job creators (i.e. private sector) will decide to take their capital elsewhere.

If City Council approves these higher property tax rates and added fees, then it will be a very, very long time before we'll ever see a real estate bounce in Palm Bay. Until then, we tax payers will get stuck with this heft bill.

Harry Santiago Jr.