REALTORS® Association of the Palm Beaches Fights Tax Hike
Property taxes help fund local governments, but they also drive up the costs of home ownership. The REALTORS® Association of the Palm Beaches is working hard to keep taxes in the Florida communities they serve from spiraling out of control.
In the summer of 2014, the city of Port St. Lucie began sending out notices to homeowners of a proposed millage rate increase of 62.17 percent. This increase would have made Port St. Lucie one of the most highly taxed municipalities in Florida. Relatively little public notice of the increase was previously given.
That large, proposed increase on the notices was enough to cause concern for local REALTORS®. With less than a week until the first of two public hearings on the increase, the staff of the REALTORS® Association was able to create a targeted campaign against the increase. The Association’s staff created a website, whose theme was that city officials were trying to “Pass the Buck” to residents for past decisions that had left the city in considerable debt, rather than seeking more practical solutions. In particular, two large property investments had the city servicing bonds at around $5 million per year, but there were options available to sell off these assets or otherwise better utilize them to keep the debt off the backs of residents.
The website, designed to maximize engagement with the campaign, went up in less than 24 hours. On the website were options to email City Council members individually, and an email link with a message against the proposed millage rate increase that was addressed to the City Council and city manager. The site also included dates, times and driving directions to the two scheduled public meetings where the issue was to be considered. Social-media sharing buttons were included as well for Facebook and Twitter.
The campaign had an immediate impact. Within 24 hours, the website had been viewed more than 300 times. The shares and views climbed rapidly into the low thousands. The public engaged with the site and sent hundreds of emails.
The voice of the public was heard loud and clear. At the first meeting on the issue, the proposed increase was immediately tabled. The mayor made a short speech that made clear that hundreds of emails had been received from the public, and these messages had not gone unheeded.