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"Role Reversal" in tax hike discussions

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Updated: 7/11/2013 11:57 pm
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- A major shortfall in the upcoming budget has sparked a new debate over tax increases for Jacksonville taxpayers.

Sean McMurray has been part of revitalization efforts in Springfield for the past decade. He's watching the talk of tax hikes and he's skeptical.

"I feel like they could do more and if they're going to tax us more, I don't think the return on investment has shown down here," said McMurray.

With a budget hole of $64 million, the budget mess now has some city council members talking about a tax hike as a possible solution.

Mayor Alvin Brown tells Action News that's not an option. "One of the commitments I made was we're not going to raise taxes and the voters elected me based on the vision I laid out," Brown said Thursday.

The Democratic mayor is standing by his pledge while Sheriff John Rutherford, a Republican, says budgetary circumstances are so dire, a tax hike is something to consider.

"When he made that promise, he didn't see this coming down the road," said Rutherford. "I mean who did? So that's why it's probably not wise to get into that situation."

In a taxation twist, Action News has learned our Sheriff isn't the only local Republican open to the idea of a tax increase.

Action News' Ryan Smith hit the phones to reach out to city council members of the six Republicans he spoke with, four said they are open to discussing tax hikes. Those council members include Bill Bishop, Stephen Joost, Richard Clark and Bill Gulliford.

"I'll say that traditionally it's something of a role reversal," said councilman Robin Lumb, a Republican.

Lumb isn't on board with any new taxes, but recognizes many of his fellow Republican leaders are considering the move.

Lumb is the former Vice chair for the Republican Party of Duval County. He's heard from many constituents suggesting a half-mill increase in property taxes. According to the councilman, that would cost about $70 for the average homeowner in Duval County.

"I do think a discussion on taxes will be part of what we focus on during the budget hearings," said Lumb.

McMurray, a Mayport engineer who's Friday is freed up thanks to military furloughs, says a tax increase should be a last resort.

"So I have a 20 percent pay cut coming my way. That's how the DOD handled it. I don't know if they [city leaderrs] necessarily have to raise taxes," said McMurray.

Another option for city leaders is passing police and fire pension reform. The mayor's office estimates that will be the current $64 million budget hole down to under $20 million.

Sheriff Rutherford is backing Mayor Alvin Brown's pension plan because he says it will help alleviate much of the current budget shortfall.

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