We applaud Villagers and area residents who showed what power to the people means last week when they told Sumter County commissioners how they felt about a proposed 25 percent tax increase that’s being rammed down their throats.
Those angry residents flocked to the Savannah Center last Tuesday to voice their displeasure over a proposed tax rate of $6.70 per $1,000 assessed valuation. The commission hasn’t raised taxes in the past 14 years but this year they’ve told residents such a drastic increase is necessary because of several issues, the largest of which is providing infrastructure in the new Southern Oaks section of The Villages.
County Administrator Bradley Arnold has said that road improvements and a new fire station on Morse Boulevard south of State Road 44 are examples of infrastructure that precede development revenue. He’s also explained that other major budget expenses include the resurfacing of Morse and Buena Vista boulevards to the tune of about $34.8 million. And construction along Warm Springs Avenue in the Villages of Southern Oaks also is part of the problem.
A final vote on the tax increase and a proposed $252.2 million budget is set for Tuesday, Sept. 24 during a meeting also being held at the Savannah Center. We encourage every Villager and area resident who has something to say about this ludicrous tax increase – one that lies squarely on the shoulders of The Villages Developer – to attend that meeting and make the commissioners aware of your feelings.
Will it do any good? That’s questionable, since the group has tentatively approved both items. But it will certainly rattle their cages and no doubt get the attention of the Developer, who needs happy residents touting The Villages to their friends across the country so he can keep lining his pockets and that of the next-generation Morse Millennials with wads of cash.
Along those lines, the Developer clearly is listening to residents to some degree because he has pulled an offer to sell the worn-out Hacienda Hills Country Club to the Amenity Authority Committee. That decision clearly came about because Villagers and local government officials had expressed their concerns about acquiring another sorry building from the Developer like the costly El Santiago Club that eventually had to be torn down, at residents’ expense.
As for the tax hike, it was refreshing to see so many well-versed Villagers expressing their thoughts – something we hope to see again on Sept. 24.
Villager Sherry Duvall made an excellent point when she suggested the Developer should pay higher impact fees to fund the infrastructure in his community instead of putting it on the backs of all Sumter County residents – many of whom will never even go to the new portions of The Villages.
Duvall also pointed out that many residents are aware commissioners have close ties to the Morse family – three of them are Villagers and one works for a company that pours concrete slabs and pools in the community.
“You are sticking it to us and hopefully we will return the favor at election time,” she said to a long round of applause.
Bill Berry, of the Village of Buttonwood, agreed.
“I guess you and the Developer have gotten together and you guys have really put the whammy on us,” he said.
Daniel Myslakowski, Village of Lake Deaton, took aim at an article titled Property Taxes 101 that was printed in the Developer-owned Daily Sun on Sept. 8. It featured Commission Chairman Don Burgess actually attempting to justify the tax increase.
“It reminds me of the Paul Newman movie ‘The Sting,’” Myslakowski said. “Not fact checked. Fake news.”
Myslakowski also correctly pointed out that late Villages Developer H. Gary Morse had promised to stop building new homes at SR 44. He was even quoted in the Developer-owned pulp product as saying such. But once Morse died in October 2014, Myslakowski said that promise vanished.
“The kids took over and now it’s damn the torpedoes full steam ahead,” he said of the fourth generation Morse Millenials, who have made such terrible decisions as pushing for permanent food trucks in the new area instead of air conditioned restaurants and putting in golf cart-only parking at the isolated Fenney Putt & Play.
As we said earlier, while we find it disturbing that the commission stands ready to approve such an outrageous tax increase, it’s important to note that the real bad guy in this whole nasty quagmire is The Villages Developer. And the Morse Millenials – the first generation that hasn’t had to work for it – are making things worse by giving new mean to the word “greed.”
If you ask us, they clearly have no respect for the years of careful planning H. Gary Morse put into his community. And we’re not sure they know much about their great-grandfather, Villages Founder Harold Schwartz, who made it a priority to listen to residents and clearly would be incensed at their disregard for those who call The Villages home.
Frankly, the Morse Millenials could solve this predicament by agreeing to pay higher impact fees. They stand to make well over $9 billion on new homes in the Southern Oaks area – that doesn’t count income from commercial ventures nor homes in the new Leesburg section of the community – so we doubt they would balk at having to pay a higher rate to keep amassing wads of cash that are larger than most of us can comprehend.
Unfortunately, the county also has reassessed property values by a large percentage, which means some residents will pay much more than a 25 percent increase. So that makes it even more important for Villagers to attend the final hearing on Sept. 24 to make their views known.
Remember the days when The Villages was known as Florida’s Friendliest Hometown? Unfortunately, with the Morse Millenials in charge and a rubber-stamp commission in place, it appears headed for a new name – Florida’s Tax Happy Town – where the views of those who worked their whole lives to settle in the mega-retirement community and were sold a false bill of goods no longer mean squat.