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Date of Issue: March 17, 2005

Tax revolters head to county commission

Members of the Coalition Against Runaway Taxation group founded on Anna Maria Island last year will head to the Manatee County Commission Jan. 25 asking to present their proposal for an entirely new taxation system for the Island.

Organizer Don Schroder, who is also president of the Anna Maria Island Chamber of Commerce, told members at their Jan. 13 meeting that the organization has to get permission that day to be on the county's Feb. 5 agenda.

The proposal is that the county refund to certain Island business owners any taxes paid above the 2003-04 tax rate.

Schroder credited Manatee County Commissioners Joe McClash and Jane von Hahmann, along with County Administrator Ernie Padgett, with devising that plan that could maintain county tax revenues from the Island, but provide some relief from high taxes. "They've certainly given us a positive response on our problems," he said.

CART and a number of Island elected officials have claimed that rising property values and accompanying taxation on the Island are driving away many of the "mom-and-pop" businesses that are a feature of Anna Maria Island and have been for decades.

To preserve the Island character, Island businesses, depending upon the type and ownership, should be taxed at a different, lower rate, CART claims.

Schroder said CART needs a budget analysis by March 1 to present to the county that will show how the county can maintain tax revenue under the CART plan. The group is also looking at hiring a lobbyist to get a change in Florida law allowing a reduction in property taxes.

More than 80 people attended the initial CART meeting in November 2004 at the Holmes Beach City Hall to vent their anger and frustration with the rising taxes and property values on the Island. They, along with Schroder and CART co-founder Nigel Brown, are upset that many business properties such as rental units and small motels are valued as condominiums under the "best use" of land valuation system used by the Manatee County Property Appraiser's Office. Taxes for non-homesteaded property such as a business have doubled and tripled in just four years in some cases, CART members have said.