On Wednesday, Florida TaxWatch released its latest report, “A Decade of Self-Taxing,” providing a comprehensive overview of the $10.8 billion in local taxes and bond issues that voters have approved since 2010.
The report further details that Floridians have voted in favor of local tax referenda a total of 142 times – worth $4.8 billion annually – while also passing $6 billion in new bond issues in the last decade.
“The findings contained in this report indicate that Florida voters want to be directly involved in local decision making and ensure their hard-earned money is being put to good use in their communities. They have repeatedly demonstrated that they are willing to increase their own taxes if they believe it will fund critical government services and generate an excellent return on investment, but the voters must ensure that local officials are held accountable for these billions of dollars in spending,” said Florida TaxWatch President and CEO Dominic Calabro.
As outlined in the report, since 2010, Floridians have considered 189 tax referenda, and three-quarters (75.1 percent) have passed. Meanwhile, bonds fared slightly better with voters – during the same timeframe, they approved 77.4 percent of the 93 referenda to authorize local governments to issue debt. Additionally, when examined in terms of potential dollars approved, both tax and bond referenda did even better than when measured as a percentage of the number of referenda approved. For taxes, 78.4 percent of the $6.2 billion in total tax increases proposed were approved. Of the $6.7 billion in bond proposals, 89.6 percent passed.
Most of the tax increases fall into two major categories – local option sales taxes and ad valorem (property tax) levies for schools, which require referenda by state law. Local governments also occasionally let voters decide on property taxes for other issues, including conservation and environmental land purchases, children’s services, libraries, cultural and historic projects, and even mosquito control and animal services.