Sunday, August 30, 2009

Downsizing the Sunshine State

...the Sunshine State is shrinking.

Choked by a record level of foreclosures and unemployment, along with a helping of disillusionment, the state's population declined by 58,000 people from April 2008 to April 2009, according to the University of Florida's Bureau of Economic and Business Research. Except for the years around World Wars I and II, it was the state's first population loss since at least 1900.

"It's dramatic," said Stanley K. Smith, an economics professor at the University of Florida who compiled the report. "You have a state that was booming and has been a leader in population growth for the last 100 years that suddenly has seen a substantial shift."

The loss is more than a data point. Growth gave Florida its notorious flip-flop and flower-print swagger. Life could be carefree under the sun because, as a famous state tourism advertisement put it in 1986, "The rules are different here."

But what if they are not?


Friday, August 28, 2009

"They are going beserk"

Broward, Dade property owners `flipping out' over tax notices

The proposed tax notices arriving in Miami-Dade and Broward mailboxes in recent days have stirred a wave of protest, with dozens of homeowners taking to the streets Thursday and thousands of others dialing their property appraiser's office.

Many homeowners, already feeling pressures from high unemployment, a tumbling stock market and dwindling property values, were angry to open their TRIM -- Truth In Millage -- notices and see a property tax increase awaiting them, too.

``They are going berserk,'' said Charlotte Greenbarg, a Hollywood resident and president of the Broward Coalition, which represents homeowners. ``People are absolutely flipping out.''

Palm Beach County arts groups chase dwindling public funds
Other governments may have to cut arts funding entirely due to
budget shortfalls. While some small cities don't contribute to the arts, county governments ...

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Costs go up as resources dry up

Free school lunches drop as parents' income audited
Tampa Tribune
Only 24 percent of parents in that South Florida school district responded. Hillsborough's Student Nutrition Services had an $87 million budget last year. ...

Driving in Florida getting costlier
Tallahassee Democrat
By Jim Ash • Florida Capital Bureau Chief • August 27, 2009 The reality of a $7 billion state budgetshortfall is about to come crashing down on Florida's ...
Although fees vary, the cost of registering a medium-sized sedan will skyrocket 54 percent, rising from $46.80 to $71.85.
Miami Dade Budget Cuts Leave Needy Families to Fend for Themselves
PR Newswire (press release) (press release)
The proposed would mean the total elimination of over $31 million in grants to community-based organizations in Miami-Dade County. A significant portion of ...

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

This we know about Sarasota

    The data here is supposed to be current:

Adjustments around the state

Roll back outrageous pay raises
County commissioners are about to do the heavy lifting on the 2009-10 budget, holding a series of public hearings that will be full of cries of genuine pain ...

City Council weighs lean budget, may hook itself up with laptops ...
Destin Log
At Monday's council workshop on the budget, Councilor Jim Bagby said that cities throughout Floridaare buying laptops for elected officials to use on city ...

Metro report
Palm Beach Post
MANALAPAN - The town commission praised its staff Tuesday for delivering a lean budget for fiscal year 2009-10, though the proposed budget would be balanced ...

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Real Healthcare Systems

In this blogger's opinion, T.R. Reid's The Healing of America is the single most useful description of healthcare models available today -- the book describes four systems in use around the world, and how they compare.

Hear an interview with Reid here.

Full transcript of interview here.

Don't bother joining in the healthcare discussion without the information here.

See also: 5 Myths About Health Care Around the World

If you're a Native American or a veteran you live in Britain. They get government health care and government hospitals from government doctors and they never get a bill.

If you're an employed person sharing your health insurance premium with your employer, you live in Germany. That's the Bismarck model that was invented in Germany and used in many countries.

If you're a senior and you buy Medicare insurance from the government and go to private doctors, you live in Canada. That's the Canadian model. As a matter of fact, the Canadian health care system is called Medicare, and when Lyndon Johnson provided it for our seniors in 1965 he borrowed both the model and the name from Canada.

And if you're one of the tens of millions of Americans who can't get health insurance, well, you live in Malawi or Madagascar or Mali or something...

Another interview with Reid here.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Cascading impacts

In affluent Naples:

More hungry students could be starting school Monday

In Sarasota:

Sarasota County schools cut $40 million from this year's budget. In the past two years Manatee has cut $43 million in spending. Fewer data and reading coaches, assistant principals and media specialists means more work for teachers and less help for students. link

Breaking a condominium death spiral

Few of the Southwest Florida’s condominiums are untouched by the housing bust, with experts claiming anywhere from a single unit to 40 percent of any given building’s units abandoned, in foreclosure or having residents who can no longer afford to pay their association dues.

In Osceola:

Fire Rescue station and library hours could be among county budget cuts

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Regional bank failures reflect underlying problems

Eight Florida banks have failed in the past 13 months. Four of them were community banks based in Sarasota or Manatee counties.

"Taking matters into their own hands"

Citizens in Coral Gables, Miami take on budget woes

Property owners, upset about budget woes at the city, county and school board levels, meet to try to tackle the government budgets themselves.


More than a dozen concerned -- some downright angry -- taxpayers met last week to discuss the different budgets proposed by Miami-Dade County, the school board and the cities of Miami and Coral Gables.

And they are taking matters into their own hands.

The residents -- young and old, Democrats and Republicans -- said they want to pore over the upcoming budgets of the city of Coral Gables, the city of Miami, the school board and the county to target wasteful spending amid declining income. South Florida municipalities are cutting services and raising taxes to contend with decreased property tax revenues from the economic downturn.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Uptick in home sales in Sarasota

Housing sales up sharply

Published: Saturday, August 22, 2009 at 1:00 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, August 21, 2009 at 9:48 p.m.

Home sales in the Sarasota-Bradenton market rose 30 percent during July as buyers scurried to lock in a federal tax credit before it expires in November.

Related Links:

July's sales performance was the biggest percentage point move in the region since June 2004. Nationally, sales spiked by the biggest amount in a decade.

At a median of $179,500, prices in the Sarasota-Bradenton market were down 22 percent from a year ago, but continued to show stability, rising 10 percent from June, data released Friday by the Florida Association of Realtors showed.

Orlando and Miami look at Tight Budget Choices

Will cutbacks make Orlando 'The City Shabby'?
Orlando Sentinel
The year before he took office, the annual maintenance budget was nearly $1.9 million. This year, it's about $970000. As of Oct. 1, it will drop to $732000, ...

Miami-Dade District 12 budget meeting draws county-wide interest
A District 12 meeting about Miami-Dade County's proposed budget drew interest from activists and residents who live elsewhere. ...

Friday, August 21, 2009

Tough budget choices

Hillsborough County reverses millions in budget cuts
Tampa Tribune
Hillsborough County Commissioners voted to restore more than $3 million in funding for countydepartments and agencies at a budget workshop on Thursday. ...

Osceola County cuts 81 jobs as budget tightens
Orlando Sentinel
Osceola has the highest mortgage foreclosure rate in Central Florida, with one in 10 homes affected. Foreclosures and declining home values have combined to ...

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Schools pinched in Sarasota

In Sarasota, hundreds of educators will have to adapt to teaching new grade levels and subjects, or groups of students with special needs, after budget cuts forced the district to move about 280 teachers into new positions for the school year that starts Monday.


Children's protections suffer in Seminole

Guardian program low on help after state cuts

SEMINOLE COUNTY - The volunteer organization that represents abused, neglected or abandoned children in court is looking for more volunteers in the county.

The Guardian ad Litem program emerged from the state's budget cycle with a $2.81 million cut, which, while significant, was far less than the Florida House of Representative's proposed $7.6 million.

But the cuts caused a shift in volunteers, leaving a hole that needs to be filled with 80 volunteers in total, and 40 for a training session that starts in October.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Arund the state

Most Palm Beach County cities will raise their tax rates for next year

Falling property values mean less revenue for city coffers; higher rates means fewer service cuts, officials say

FORT LAUDERDALE - Twenty-six of 31 cities, as well as Broward County government, both hospital districts and the local children services agency, are looking at raising tax rates and fees on property owners this year.

Cuts threaten responders

Cities plead with county not to trim $1.4 million to offset program cost

Monday, August 17, 2009

Renew the Florida tax debate?

The Lee County Property Appraiser’s Office expects to mail out Truth In Millage (TRIM) notices to property owners by this Friday.

The TRIM notice shows what they’re to pay in property taxes depending on the appraised property value and on what tax rates cities, the county, the school board and other districts adopt before Oct. 1.

Last Friday reported that Lee County’s population dropped by 1.38 percent, or 8,601 residents. So there are presumably fewer people to pay these taxes to cover the cost of government.

Add to that people walking away from their homes — and taxes — because of lost jobs, lost income or being underwater on their mortgage, and the drops in property values, and thus revenue, leading to budget cuts for taxing bodies.

One, thus, has to wonder whether the current property taxation system is sustainable. We believe it is not.


Start Florida tax debate once again

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Residential taxes going up in area

Some homeowners in for unpleasant surprise

Already hit by the biggest drop in property values in the state's history, many full-time residents will get another dose of bad news this week: Their property tax bills are actually going up, some significantly.

...the implosion of the housing market and the lingering recession have meant sagging revenues for local governments, many of which have responded by raising property taxes.

That, combined with an exemption designed to ease the burden on full-time residents, is turning Florida's much-criticized tax system on its head, with much of the load shifting back to those year-round residents.

The shift will become apparent this week as tax bills for 647,000 parcels in Sarasota, Manatee and Charlotte counties begin arriving in the mail. More...

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Share and merge government services

Governing with less

Cash-strapped cities and counties should consider merging services

Published: Saturday, August 15, 2009 at 1:00 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, August 14, 2009 at 4:14 p.m.

Local governments across Florida are facing some of the most challenging times in memory as they prepare budgets for the 2010 fiscal year.

Tax revenues have declined as property values have plummeted in the wake of the housing bust, and those revenues are expected to continue to fall in the near future.

The dismal prospects call for fresh consideration of how to provide the government services that the public demands in the most cost-efficient way possible. That way may be through expanded cooperation among county and city governments.

But more cooperation and combination of efforts should also be explored by city and county governments. Ultimately, citizens must decide on the level of government services they need and, perhaps, on which government should provide those services.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Health, Safety and Budget Cuts

Broward County cutting school nurses as flu expected to reemerge
By Bob LaMendola and Kathy Bushouse South Florida Sun-Sentinel Although H1N1 flu is expected reappear bigger and stronger after children return to classes, ...

Clay Sheriff Says Budget Cuts May Affect Public Safety
First Coast News
GREEN COVE SPRINGS, FL -- The Clay County Sheriff says fewer officers on the streets could soon be a reality for residents. For the first time in 20 years, ...

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Mapping the fallout

A list of the biggest increases in foreclosure rates across Florida reads like a map of the fallout from the unbridled real estate boom.

Foreclosures spiked 788 percent during the last three years in the 20th Judicial Circuit, home to Port Charlotte, Fort Myers and Cape Coral. In the 12th Circuit -- Bradenton, Sarasota, North Port, Venice and Arcadia -- filings rose 631 percent from 2006 to 2008.

Statewide, foreclosures rose nearly 400 percent, with 623,570 properties receiving unwelcome attention from banks and mortgage lenders. Through May, another 175,612 properties entered the pipeline, according to a study prepared by a task force advising the Florida Supreme Court about how the judicial system can deal with the worst foreclosure crisis since the Great Depression.

Foreclosure fallout hangs heaviest here