Tax reform group disbanded
Insurance rate cuts announced
Baseball players needed
George makes murder plea
Asbestos bids in, city hall repairs next
rage building among home, business owners
Tickets available for Tour of Homes
cancellation rules clarified
Tax reform group
By Cindy Lane
sun staff writer
The Florida Property Tax Reform Committee will not
be adding its two cents to the raging debate on tax
The 15-member committee, created in June, 2006 by
former Gov. Jeb Bush, was abolished by Gov. Charlie
Crist before the March 1 deadline for its mid-term
report, committee member and Hillsborough County Property
Appraiser Rob Turner said.
At the request of state Senate Finance and Tax Chairman
Mike Haridopolos, the committee will be replaced with
a new committee of property appraisers scheduled to
meet later this month, said Turner, who has been invited
to join the new group.
The disbanded committees initial recommendations
were released in December. Its main suggestion echoed
the battle cry of the Citizens Against Runaway Taxation
(CART) group on Anna Maria Island - changing county
property appraisers emphasis on the highest
and best use standard of appraisal to the income standard
on the theory that the income approach reflects the
actual use of the property, not its potential use,
and therefore is more accurate.
Another proposal the committee had planned to study
this year was replacing the property tax in whole
or in part with other forms of taxation, such as sales
tax, which is the chief idea in the controversial
proposals being debated in the Legislature by Haridopolos
"After looking at the recommendations, we made
a short list to review and study, including some form
of increasing the sales tax, but many of us had concerns
about the possibility that Florida would have the
highest sales tax in the nation," Turner said,
adding that the implications for tourism and retailers
"may put us in a very difficult competitive situation."
In addition, the proposal seemed inequitable for small
business owners, who would be collecting the sales
tax, and people who do not own homes, who would receive
no benefit while shouldering increased costs, he said.
If the proposal to replace property taxes with sales
taxes winds up on a constitutional amendment ballot,
Turner worries that Floridians who will benefit from
it will vote for it without considering the long-term
implications and unintended consequences.
"What if most of our employers had to close down
in Florida?" he asked. "Would you still
feel good about saving money?"
The former committee was "trying to find a formula
that all property owners would gain some benefit from,
while not putting another group of property owners
at risk," Turner said.
In contrast, the new committee will likely be asked
for its advice on whether tax reform proposals are
practical from an administrative and implementation
standpoint, he said.
By Cindy Lane
sun staff writer
Its a question insurance customers have been
asking ever since the state Legislature passed the
new insurance law in January "How much
will we save?"
And while the new figures for the region including
Anna Maria Island are encouraging - from 28.5 percent
to 41.1 percent state regulators warn that
savings for coastal residents could be lower.
Florida Insurance Commissioner Kevin McCarty released
the property insurance rate reductions last week on
windstorm premiums. In coastal areas, the windstorm
portion of the premium can amount to a substantial
part of the total.
But the reductions, calculated regionally, can vary
greatly depending on a policyholders zip code
within the region, McCarty warned.
Insurers also are allowed to make adjustments based
on their last rate filings. If an insurer increased
rates within the year prior to the policyholders
renewal, the policyholder will still see the effects
of the rate increase, possibly reducing the premium
Rate reductions range from 10.2 percent in Floridas
panhandle to 52.8 percent in the Miami area.
In region 15, which includes Anna Maria Island, average
savings are consistently higher than the average statewide
savings for all types of property.
The rate reductions were determined by the Florida
Office of Insurance Regulation in consultation with
the director of the Consumer Federation of America
and former Texas insurance commissioner J. Robert
The new law mandated that the savings from the expansion
of the Florida Hurricane Catastrophe Fund, which offers
lower-cost reinsurance to insurance companies doing
business in Florida, be passed on to insurance customers.
All residential insurers must make new rate filings
to reflect the savings by Mar. 15, and new rates become
effective for new or renewal policies beginning June
Critics of the law have warned that it is a short-term
solution that shifts more of the burden of major storm
losses to Floridians and could discourage insurance
companies from doing business in Florida.
Average insurance savings for this region
Type of insured Region 15 Statewide
property average savings average savings
Personal dwellings 33.4 percent 23.9 percent
Tenants 33.6 percent 20.3 percent
Personal condos 28.5 percent 25 percent
Mobile homes 41.1 percent 26.9 percent
Commercial dwellings 33.5 percent 28.7 percent
Registration for Little League baseball
on the Island has been extended another week. Boys
and girls in all divisions can register through Friday,
March 9, and will still be placed on a team.
Cost will be $65 per player for AAA (ages 9-12) and
AA (ages 7-11), and $55 per player for tee ball (ages
5-7). There will be a $5 discount for each additional
sibling. Sign up at the Centers temporary office
located behind St. Bernard Church in Holmes Beach.
By Cindy Lane
sun staff writer
CORTEZ Tammy Lynn George, 45, pleaded guilty
Thursday to second degree murder in the stabbing death
of Mimi Marie Pace, 42, at their home in Sunny Shores
Mobile Home Park on Jan. 2, 2006.
The plea included a sentencing agreement to serve
22 years in a state Department of Corrections facility,
according to her attorney, Steven Schaefer.
Pace, who had moved into Georges home at 3707
115th St. Court W. with her boyfriend a day earlier,
was found with at least 75 stab wounds and fatal head
Neighbors at the park heard screams from the trailer
and called Paces boyfriend, who discovered the
body. They said they were not surprised to see police
at the home the day of the murder.
"We knew it was coming," said Sunny Shores
Neighborhood Watch Captain Charles Councilman, who
lives nearby with his wife, and had previously called
the police about suspected criminal activity at the
Investigators found a kitchen knife and a bat near
the body, and George smoking a cigarette nearby.
George, who has a history of mental health problems
according to her attorney, also was sentenced to pay
court costs and more than $2,000 in restitution to
Pace's family for funeral expenses.
in, city hall repairs next
By Laurie Krosney
sun staff writer
ANNA MARIA Asbestos removal and then mold
removal may begin soon at city hall. Mayor Fran Barford
said the bids are in now on getting the asbestos removed.
"It looks like itll be about $14,600, which
is about the same range as what the mold removal will
cost," she said. "We have to do the asbestos
removal first, before we do the mold."
Barford said shed sit down with the staff this
week and make a recommendation on which bid to accept
at the city commissions work session on Thursday,
The problems grew out of a bad leak that occurred
while the city hall building was getting a new roof.
Workers from Roof USA apparently failed to secure
the tarp covering the top of the building when they
left the job site for the weekend in the first week
A sheriffs deputy found the building flooded
during a rainstorm and city staff came in to help
do the initial cleanup.
There was water in several of the offices and in the
commission chambers. Carpets were flooded, as were
walls and ceiling tiles.
Since then mold has been growing in the walls, the
carpeting, ceiling tiles and attic. Mold can cause
health problems for people occupying a mold-contaminated
building. The problem is serious enough that a special
mold cleanup company had to be hired. City hall operations
were then moved into two rooms at the Island Baptist
Asbestos was then discovered in several areas where
the mold was growing.
"In some cases, the mold is actually growing
on top of the asbestos," Barford said. "Can
you believe that?"
After the asbestos is removed, the mold remediation
work will be done. Following that, the damage to the
building will have to be repaired. New drywall, new
ceiling tiles, new carpet and in some cases new furniture
will have to be installed.
The city has hired an attorney specializing in construction
litigation to help them recover the costs of removing
the asbestos and mold and reconstruction as well as
the costs of relocating operations to the church.
Barford said there have been some initial conversations
with the attorney.
"We have to do a lot of documentation, but its
mostly the same things we have to document for the
mold, so we know how to do that," she said. "Were
Tax rage building
among home, business owners
By Pat Copeland
sun staff writer
One by one, they told their tax horror stories and
begged for relief at a forum last week sponsored by
Sen. Mike Bennett, of Bradenton, and Sen. Mike Haridopolos,
chairman of the state Senate Finance and Tax Committee.
Panel members also included Sen. Aretha Joyner and
Reps. Bill Galvano, Nicholas Thompson, Doug Holder
and Keith Fitzgerald.
At the forums opening, Bennett said they would
not take comments from local elected officials because,
"They have wonderful access to us and our purpose
today is to listen to the people."
Haridopolos said the group was seeking ideas to take
back to Tallahassee and stressed, "The American
Dream is under assault. Owning your own home, owning
your own business is in jeopardy.
"By the time we get out of our legislative session
in May, we want to have something that we can bring
back to you. It will be across the board and it will
One man, who said he owns a condo in the county, said
his property taxes have increased 101 percent in the
past two years and blamed uncontrolled spending by
"They spend money like drunken sailors on shore
leave," he said. "The increases get passed
along to non-homesteaded taxpayers like us who have
no say in their actions."
Emery Jack Moss, of Martinique North, told the panel
that non-homesteaded owners in his building are paying
$10,000 on their units, while homesteaded owners are
paying $2,000 on their units, which are valued equally.
He said a suggestion to increase the homestead exemption
by $25,00 would cause greater inequity.
"I dont believe you can ever have an equitable
tax as long as you base it on property values,"
Ron Robinson, of Holmes Beach, pointed out. "Anybody
that has filed an appeal on their taxes knows theres
nothing scientific about the way the county values
property. They try to get as much as they can. They
act like a majority partner without any investment
in my property."
He said if he died, his children would have to sell
the property because they couldnt afford the
Barry Gould, of Island Vacation Properties, said for
the past four years he has specialized in helping
Island motels and small resorts find buyers for their
properties because of high taxes and insurance expenses.
However, due to a lack of buyers, they were faced
with the choice of tearing down the motels and rebuilding
luxury condos or converting the units to resort condos.
He gave the example of Siam Garden Resort, whose owners
renovated it and turned it into a popular resort in
2000, when the taxes were $10,107. In 2005, the taxes
increased 65 percent and the owners were told the
calculation was made based on the highest and best
use of the property, which was to be converted to
condos. They converted to condos and last year, the
taxes increased 320 percent.
Don Schroder, president of CART (Coalition Against
Runaway Taxes), said the problem is how the business
properties are being taxed on highest and best
use and not current use. He said the Island has lost
50 percent of its rooms in the past few years.
Ken Gerry, of the White Sands Resort, said that the
resorts taxes have increased from $9,000 to
$70,000 since 2000, plus insurance has doubled.
Some suggestions people made include the following:
Provide tax relief, but be equitable;
Control government spending;
Roll back taxes to 2001 numbers;
Change the method of assessment;
Tax businesses on current use rather than highest
and best use;
Make the 3 percent cap portable;
Cap future tax increases;
Establish a cap for all property owners, not
just those who are homesteaded.
Haridopolos asked that people e-mail their ideas and
comments to their state senators at flsenate.gov.
Holder said people could contact him at (941) 918-4028
for Tour of Homes
Its that time of the year when select homeowners
open up their abodes for the amusement and admiration
of those who spend the money.
Its not the money or prestige the homeowners
are after, however. Theyre in it for the Anna
Maria Island Community Center.
Tickets for the 14th Annual Tour of Homes will be
held from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday, March 17,
featuring six homes in Holmes Beach and Anna Maria.
Proceeds go to the Community Center.
The homeowners and the homes on the tour: John &
Penny Reinholz, 6503 Marina Drive, Holmes Beach; Ken
& Clif Venters, 6805 Holmes Boulevard, Holmes
Beach; Mark Kimball, 6405 Gulf Drive. Holmes Beach;
Donald & Anna Rully, 103 75th Street, Holmes Beach;
Jim & Gail DePorre, 801 North Shore Drive. Anna
Maria; and Dennis & Frances Bello, 809 North Shore
Drive, Anna Maria.
Complete the tour with visits to the boutique and
food pantry, offering original arts and crafts, and
the wine tasting and delicious bites at the Beach
Bistro for a $10 donation.
A quilt, handmade by the Eyeland Needlers knitting
group, will be raffled on the day of the tour.
Tickets are $15 in advance and $18 on the day of the
tour. All proceeds benefit the Anna Maria Island Community
Center, which serves more than 5,000 children, families
and seniors of the community with programs and services
that otherwise would not be available.
Tickets are available at the following:
Publix in Holmes Beach from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
on Wednesday, March 7, Friday, March 9, and Wednesday,
Anna Maria Island Sun, 202 Palm Ave., Anna
Lor-Ells Hair Design, 401 Pine Ave.,
Ginnys & Jane Es, 9807 Gulf
Dr., Anna Maria;
Two Scoops Ice Cream Parlor, 101 South Bay
Blvd., Anna Maria;
Longboat Key Chamber of Commerce, 6960 Gulf
of Mexico Drive, Longboat Key;
AMI Chamber of Commerce, 5313 Gulf Drive, Holmes
Ace Hardware, 3352 East Bay Drive, Holmes Beach;
Ginnys Antiques and Art, 5602 Marina
Drive, Holmes Beach;
LaPensee Plumbing, 5348 Gulf Drive, Holmes
Islander newspaper, 5404 Marina Drive;
Crowder Bros. Ace Hardware, 5409 Manatee Ave.
Fusion Fitness, 6500 Manatee Ave. W., Bradenton;
Robyns Nest, 7459 Manatee Ave. W., Bradenton.
For more information, call the Center at 778-1908.
By Cindy Lane
sun staff writer
To clear up confusion about the new rules prohibiting
insurance companies from canceling and not renewing
policies, the state insurance commissioner has issued
The state issued an emergency rule to keep insurance
companies from dropping policies after a new insurance
law was passed by the Florida Legislature in January.
The rule prohibits insurance companies from not renewing
personal residential policies until they make new
rate filings with the Office of Insurance Regulation
that take into account mathematical calculations announced
on Mar. 1, Florida Insurance Commissioner Kevin McCarty
said in a press release. The new rate filings are
due by Mar. 15, after which date insurers will be
allowed to non-renew policies.
McCarty had previously explained in a Feb. 7 letter
to Gov. Charlie Crist that cancellations and non-renewals
scheduled to take effect after the emergency rule
became effective were prohibited, regardless of whether
customers had been notified of the cancellations or
non-renewals before or after the rule became effective.
Contrary to misunderstandings, the emergency rule
did not say that non-renewals were prohibited for
90 days or prohibited for the 2007 hurricane season,
An order released on Feb. 19 and mandated by the new
insurance law contained time frames adequate to allow
insurers to produce rate filings that take into account
the new calculations, to allow the Office of Financial
Regulation to review the more than 200 new rate filings
expected to be submitted by insurers and to allow
insurers time to configure their systems to send notices
containing new rates to policyholders by an April
15 deadline, according to McCarty.
The new insurance rates will become effective June