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Lee won't raise taxes

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May 15, 2007

Leesburg -- Property owners in Lee County won't pay more taxes this year, but that means they'll lose some county services and pay more fees. Commissioners decided not to raise taxes, so they'll have to find other ways to make up a more than two-million dollar budget shortfall.

They'll cut services such as mosquito spraying and raise recreation fees.

Lee County Commissioners plan to tighten the county's belt this year and are eyeing what services will be slashed after ruling out a millage increase.

EdNat "All in favor of not raising taxes raise their hands... I'm in favor of not raising taxes," said Lee County Commissioner Ed Duffy.

Commissioners must now decide from a list of 27 services what stays and what's left out. "We can not cut the five percent increase for the employees because they haven't had a raise in three years, the next thing we can't cut out of this budget is the $400,000 transfer to the utility authority because it will raise rate for the very people who can least afford it," said Duffy.

What's on the chopping block are new county positions, mosquito spraying, demolition of unsafe dwellings, a Grand Island employee, Ordinance reviews, and they will downgrade the planning directors position. Commissioners also plan to double alcohol license fees and increase zoning and recreation fees by 50%.

"I think parents and people will be willing to pay more to have those services, that's what they moved here for so sure they should be willing to pay for it," said Commissioner Dennis Roland.

Lee County's growth continues at 4.1 percent a year, something commissioners are banking on to help carry the budget.

"Typically from year to year the growth is enough to offset inflationary costs that county government is hit with," said Lee County Administrator Alan Ours.

The county will have a better idea of the financial situation when they get the Lee County digest around the first of June. Several commissioners say not raising taxes and making these cuts is just a band-aid on the county's ailing budget.

Commissioners are also exploring the possibility of raising rates at the county's landfill, but they worry that could cost them business. Commissioners have until June 30th to complete the budget.

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