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Okaloosa Co commissioners give preliminary approval to property tax increase

OKALOOSA COUNTY - For the first time in nine years, property taxes in Okaloosa County could be going up. Commissioners gave preliminary approval for the increase this week.

Laura Hussey says, "The average home in Okaloosa County is worth about 125 thousand dollars. So for the average homeowner, the property tax increase would amount to about seventeen dollars and forty-eight cents per year....about a buck-fifty per month."
   
For the last five years, things like vehicle replacement have been on hold....as commissioners tried to hold the line on property taxes. Employees have gone without raises; 89 jobs have been cut. Some voters understand why county leaders voted for a tax increase.
   
Jerry Melvin of Okaloosa County says, "I was looking at our grocery bill, it's gone up. I was looking at the gas bill, it's gone up. Everything's going up, so why should we not expect things at the county to go up?"    
   
Kenneth McCann isn't sure a tax hike is the right choice.
He'll see the increase on his home, and on a couple of rental properties.

McCann says, "You know, the services are really good, and I have no complaints over that. But raising taxes in a depression is just taboo."

A man named Mark who lives in the county says, "Sometimes it's necessary, nobody likes it. Just like nobody likes getting laid off, or getting their coworkers laid off" Reporter says, "Oh, that's tough." Mark says, "Yes, we just went through that at our place."
   
Mark says he can handle the increase, but he's worried about people who can't.....especially now that the county has approved a three-cent-per-gallon gas tax.   

The county administrator says every department has been cut back, and this budget is a conservative effort to solve urgent problems.

Laura Hussey says, "There's one more public hearing before the final vote. That takes place September 16."