Local

Key West leaders refuse to raise taxes after Irma

Key West residents listen to City Commissioner Sam Kaufman and City Manager Jim Scholl at Sunday’s town hall meeting at City Hall over Hurricane Irma recovery.
Key West residents listen to City Commissioner Sam Kaufman and City Manager Jim Scholl at Sunday’s town hall meeting at City Hall over Hurricane Irma recovery. Keynoter

The Key West City Commission held tight to its majority’s desire not to raise taxes, particularly after the island was battered by Hurricane Irma Sept. 10.

The millage rate was set at $234 per $100,000 of assessed taxable property value Monday at the first of two public budget hearings at City Hall, 1300 White St.

While spared the agony that struck the Middle and Lower Keys, Key West homeowners still had to dig out from fallen trees and debris.

Commissioner Margaret Romero voted along with the rest in the 5-0 vote to keep the millage rate at rollback (the rate needed to raise the same amount of taxes as the current year), but earlier she had been the lone voice suggesting the city raise its share of the property tax bill to what would have created a $3 monthly increase on a property valued at $400,000.

“We might have some reduced revenues coming in,” Romero said.

The other four members present— commissioners Jimmy Weekley and Billy Wardlow were absent Monday — disagreed.

“I don't want to be part of a commission that would even propose going higher than rollback at this point, especially after something as devastating as a hurricane,” said Commissioner Clayton Lopez.

“The property owners are going to suffer a great deal,” said Commissioner Richard Payne. “They’re already suffering a great deal with repairs on their homes.”

Commissioner Sam Kaufman said he didn’t want to give landlords any excuse to raise rents post-Irma, and Mayor Craig Cates said that much of the damage in Key West was landscaping, which typically isn’t covered by homeowners’ insurance and has to come out of pocket.

The proposed operating budget for the fiscal year that begins Oct. 1 is about $51 million.

The commission will hold its final budget hearing Friday at 6 p.m. at City Hall. On Oct. 3, commissioners will have their first regular meeting since Irma.

Gwen Filosa: @KeyWestGwen

  Comments