Town fights to keep, control biz tax
The Longboat Key Town Commission agreed to oppose by resolution Florida House Bill 4025 and Florida Senate Bill 760, which would eliminate the town’s business tax that collects about $165,000 annually.
The town has imposed this tax since the early 1960s and approval of the legislation would result in a loss of revenue to the town. The Town Clerk’s office collected $158,262.69 in fiscal year 2009-2010 and $166,139.62 in fiscal year 2010-2011. The town collects from about 3,600 business entities, with the majority from rental homes and docks for rent.
When asked if eliminating the tax during a period when businesses on Longboat key are struggling to survive, Town Manager Dave Bullock said the issue is also about Home Rule and there is no guarantee that if eliminated the state will not levy a tax and spend the money as it sees fit.
The tax ranges from about $33 to $653, which is the most levied on a developer with more than 20 employees. The highest cost to a hotel with 200-plus units is about $100. Restaurants pay about $120.
“From the town standpoint we have a limited number of revenue sources we are allowed to have,” said Bullock. “There is a chance this tax could come back as a state assessment. Tallahassee is on a revenue hunt.”
If that happens the town could face losing control of those assessments. Bullock added that the issue goes to the argument raging in legislature about Home Rule Authority, which recognizes the rights and authority vested in local municipalities and government to enact local rules and regulations as well as levy taxes.
“The ability to levy taxes that have been collected for 40 years becomes an expression and manifestation of Home Rule,” said Bullock.
Bullock added that the real control and check by voters is at the local ballot box where they can and regularly do vote out commissioners and local representatives they feel are not spending their money wisely. But Bullock said keeping the revenue and the control of that revenue in the hands of the local municipality lets the town spend it where it sees fit as opposed to the state. He added that it is easier for voters to affect local elections and budgets and policies on the municipal and regional level rather than on a state level.