Port Orange, FL - Port Orange City Council members approved a resolution to increase the ad valorem, or property tax, on first reading. District 2 Councilmember Chase Tramont says they were met by a peaceful protest on their way into yesterday's (September 9) meeting. Police and firefighters were there to bring attention to current negotiations between the city and their unions to push for higher wages. Tramont says their protest is perfectly understandable, reasonable, and acceptable. He said he'd be standing out there himself and he believes that they are woefully underpaid and that they should be compensated at a higher rate.
In order for first responders to get a salary increase, along with other benefits, there needs to be more money. Tramont says there are two major issues. "We have an issue where they need to be compensated but we're also in the middle of the greatest economic crisis that we've seen in 90 years. At the same time, I understand the other Council members' position. I don't think anybody had any position other than the feeling of doing what they felt was in the best interest of the city."
Tramont says his personal position is that he wants to give raises and supports raises for our first responders wholeheartedly. On the other hand, he doesn't support an increase in the tax burden of those that are struggling financially.
The increase, if approved on second reading at the next meeting on September 23, would raise $1.6 million annually. Tramont says property taxes make up only about a quarter of the General Fund. His issue is that the city of Port Orange won't be the only one increasing taxes. "My objection is with the comment that 'it's only a couple of bucks.' In addition, it's not just 30 or 40 dollars because we're only one of multiple taxing agencies. Thirty over here, 15 over here, 10 over here. It starts to add up."
The POCC approved the increase on first reading yesterday by a vote of 3-2, with Tramont and District 1 Councilmember Marilyn Ford were the two against the increase. Tramont said that the increase is not a done deal until it's approved on second reading.