Some local government leaders are saying state legislators are choking their ability to pay for programs for their communities. City and county governments across Florida face a possible decline in tax revenue. That’s because of a proposed homestead exemption on the November ballot.
At the same time, local leaders are scrambling to find funds to pay for state mandated programs, such as Pinellas County's new $20 million school safety officer requirement.
On Friday, Hillsborough and Pinellas County leaders lambasted state lawmakers for their failure to listen to the concerns at the local level.
“The state is cost shifting all these other issues down to us,” said Kenneth Welch, the chair of the Pinellas County Commission, at a Cafe con Tampa breakfast.
Welch said leaders in Tallahassee, such as Speaker of the House Richard Corcoran, are out of touch with what happens at the local level.
"Mr. Corcoran talked about unaccountable local governments. That's baloney. We're stepping up where the state really should be stepping up,” he said.
Sandy Murman, his counterpart with the Hillsborough County Commission, agreed. The former state legislator said it’s time that local leaders educate Tallahassee on the impact of their decisions.
“I’m continually amazed that there is a lack of respect,” she said. “We have to do a better job at educating them about the impact of their decisions here at the local level.”
If the homestead exemption passes, Pinellas County’s revenue is expected to be reduced by $37 million, Welch said. In Hillsborough, that number will likely be $35 million.
Paying for the exemption would likely see cuts to transportation, infrastructure, public safety and education.
“Things we would otherwise be able to provide," said Welch. "It’s going to be a significant reduction in our ability to support those services.”
Added Murman: "We don’t know where it’ll come from yet, but it’ll be a big bite.”
To accommodate the mandated programs, both counties are struggling to come up with ways to pay for them. To pay for the school officer safety program, Welch and Murman said Pinellas and Hillsborough will likely have to dip into reserve funding.