Published: Apr 20, 2011 7:32 PM EDT
Updated: Apr 20, 2011 4:40 PM EDT

Lee county elected officials held a budget workshop on Wednesday.  But it quickly dissolved into a pointed discussion of a possible hike in the property tax rate, also known as the millage.

"I think we have to have a frank discussion of the rate.   The fact is, with the property values down so much, it would not raise taxes, it would just give us perhaps the same revenue next year as we get this year," said Commissioner Tammy Hall.    Her colleague, Ray Judah, also argued for an open talk about possibly hiking the tax rate.

Others disagree.  "Nobody wants that, and I don't care what you call it, a tax rate hike, or a millage increase.   The people see it as a tax hike, and we do not need to put that on them at this time," said Commission Chair   Frank Mann.  

Homeowner Ron King in North Ft. Myers agrees.   "Putting any burden on the homeowner will just cripple us further.   The values are just starting to come back in this neighborhood, so some people could get a tax hike from an increase in the tax rate.   People will not stand for it," said King.

On other issues, Lee Sheriff Mike Scott revealed his office is offering an 'early leave' option to 33 deputies and civilians.    They should be off the payroll by June 30.    Because of that, the sheriff's budget should come in lower than the current year.   Scott says he cannot and will not cut deeper than what he already has for this budget year, because that would adversely affect public safety.