Another Environmental Lands Referendum Monkey Wrench

Just when we thought the path was clear to work to persuade voters to approve a property tax increase of 20 cents per $1,000 of taxable value to restart the environmental lands purchase program originally approved by voters in 1994 was clear, along comes another attempt to monkey wrench the effort.

During Friday’s agenda study session, County Commissioner George Lindsey, one of two commissioners to vote against putting the issue on the ballot last month, took another run at the referendum. He suggested changing the tax to 10 cents per $1,000 of taxable value because even at that taxing level, arguing it would still raise more money than the original referendum.

There will not be a formal vote on the amount of the tax levy until the ordinance being drafted by the county’s legal staff is presented to the County Commission. No date for that hearing has been announced.

There are a couple of problems with this gambit.

One is that the uncertainty over just what the proposed tax will be throws the messaging on what to tell voters about the referendum in disarray.

The other thing is that it ignores, either intentionally or unintentionally, is the doubling of real estate prices over the past 30 years and whether the subsequent increase in the value of the tax roll in Polk if the tax is halved from the original proposal will be adequate to provide enough money to offer landowners fair prices for their property in inflationary times.

Stay tuned.

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