PANAMA CITY BEACH, Fla. (WMBB) — During Tuesday’s Bay County Commission meeting, Tommy Hamm blamed Community Redevelopment Agencies as the reason Bay County is having to raise property taxes.
Beach Council members fired back, defending the CRA program and accusing Hamm of spinning the truth.
“The County Commission has resorted to weaponizing misinformation to advance his own agenda in an attempt to organize and mobilize the public behind false propaganda and to deflect attention away from themselves,”Panama City Beach Mayor Mark Sheldon said during Thursday’s Panama City Beach’s Council meeting.
For the first time in 10 years, Bay County Commission will increase the millage rate.
At Tuesday’s Budget workshop commissioner set the ceiling at 5.6, a 1.25 increase from where it currently stands.
Bay County Commissioner Claire Pease attended Panama City Beach’s Council Meeting and addressed the council.
“The projected cost of this project has significantly strained our community, ” Pease said.
Pease said she and Sheldon have been working to find a solution that works for both parties.
“Trying to figure out some different ways we can possibly speed up the CRA and bring it in at a better price,” Pease said.
When a section of land is declared “blighted” cities can form a community redevelopment area, or CRA.
Then all of the property tax money from the CRA goes back to the city to redevelop it.
The county loses that tax revenue.
County officials are projecting they’ll lose as much as 20 percent of their tax revenue next year.
And the beach CRA is in effect until 2049.
“Obviously, that’s way too far,” Sheldon said. “I mean that’s been out there since 2001. It’s been that long. Right. So our goal is to continue the project but get it done in as fast as possible. I have super high expectations I don’t want to give a timeline because I don’t want somebody who’s after me to have to try to live up to those timelines.But we are working on an aggressive schedule that would definitely finish more than ten years faster than it’s planned.”
Sheldon argues the revenue generated from the Front Beach Road and Pier Park CRA’s will benefit the county in the long run.