Harris: Unfunded state mandates led to county tax increase

wayne harris nwfdn

Wayne Harris

FILE PHOTO | Northwest Florida Daily News
Published: Friday, September 13, 2013 at 12:56 PM.

CRESTVIEW — Financial pressure from the state forced the Okaloosa County Board of Commissioners to raise ad valorem taxes, Commissioner Wayne Harris says.

The 17 cents per $1,000 increase helps address $38.5 million in unfunded mandates that the state has imposed on the county for the past three years, Harris said on Thursday.

"We cut as much as we possibly could," he said. "If we didn't have to spend the $38.5 million, we'd probably lower the taxes. Raising taxes wouldn't even have been under consideration."

County chief financial officer Gary Stanford cited the following state unfunded mandates as being particularly burdensome to Okaloosa County:

•Retirement contributions for county employees, which the Florida Legislature periodically changes

•Detention services for the Department of Juvenile Justice: "The cost of the operating and support services for those services is 'shared,' as they say, with counties," Stanford said. "We pay millions of dollars for those detention services."

•Federally mandated state Medicaid contributions, the cost of which Florida passes directly to counties

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