Stew Lilker’s

Columbia County Observer

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Columbia County

Columbia County 5 Nixes Honest Taxation: Jacks Up Cell Phone, Business Phone, TV Taxes 400% 

COLUMBIA COUNTY, FL – Last night, the County 5 jacked up the County Communications Services Tax, a tax levied on cell phones, cable and satellite television, and non-residential landline phone service, to fund its two full time and one non essential part time library. While rejecting honest taxation by taxing for the libraries directly, the County 5 chose instead to implement a burdensome and regressive communications tax on Columbia County's residents.

A One Sentence Explanation

The tax increase gave the unincorporated Columbia County the 15th highest tax rate in Florida out of 66 counties, a fact not mentioned in the brief one sentence presentation by Acting County Manager, Ben Scott, who said the tax was earmarked to "supplement our three libraries and the excess funding that will be derived from the tax will go capital projects, beginning with repairs to the libraries."

Mr. Scott did not mention where the rest of the money would go. None of The 5 asked.

During the public hearing, your reporter, who is also a Columbia County resident, suggested that The 5 employ honest taxation by setting up a library district to fund the libraries. There was no comment.

The 5 was also asked to change the wording to make it reflect what the County just claimed the purpose of the tax to be: library funding.

The ordinance states: "revenues generated by the CST may be used for any public purpose, including, but not limited to, pledging such revenues for the repayment of current or future bonded indebtedness."

The Columbia County 5 from left to right: Commissioners Ronald Williams;
Rusty DePratter; Bucky Nash; Everett Phillips; Scarlet Frisina

The 5 ignored the request and did not discuss it.

Commissioner Frisina asked, "The Communications Service Tax states, 'It can be used for – anything? That's what the ordinance states, right?"

Attorney Joel Foreman

County Attorney Foreman, answered the question the lawyer way. Rather than directly answering Ms. Frisina or reading the one sentence: "revenues generated by the CST may be used for any public purpose, including, but not limited to, pledging such revenues for the repayment of current or future bonded indebtedness," Mr. Foreman answered, "The statute that authorizes the imposition of the tax uses the same language that it's not a restricted revenue type tax. The inclusion of that language is a reflection of what's in the statute authorized last September."

Attorney Foreman, never really answered the question and it wasn't clear if Commissioner Frisina knew what was meant by a "restricted revenue type tax."

Mr. DePratter addressed the imposition of a special district library tax by saying what was suggested was a "user fee."

Without any further discussion, The 5 voted to increase the regressive Communications Service tax to 5.1 percent, an increase of almost 400%.


Graphic: mygovcost.org

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