Lee school board member allegedly failed to pay taxes
Convincing the public to approve a tax increase in 2010 could be substantially more challenging for the Lee County School Board after one of its own reportedly did not pay her 2008 property taxes.
Board Member Jeanne Dozier and her husband, Joseph, were among thousands in Lee County who received a tax certificate on a property. The couple reportedly failed to pay $10,681.73 on a Fort Myers property.
Wachovia Bank subsequently purchased the tax certificate on Dozier’s home May 21.
Dozier could not be reached for comment by telephone Wednesday afternoon, and she has repeatedly been absent from school board meetings over the last month. In some cases, she has participated in meetings via speakerphone.
It is unclear whether the nonpayment was intentional or resulted from an error by Dozier during tax preparations or by the mortgage handler.
For weeks the school district has been considering a funding option that would increase its discretionary millage by 0.25 percent and collect $16.3 million to offset budget cuts.
Although it is unknown how the public may react to this development, some school board members claim that it will make garnering voter approval for a tax increase more difficult.
“I don’t support any tax increase at this point because we haven’t taken a serious look at some of our costly transportation and administrator programs,” said Board Member Robert Chilmonik. “However, with what has happened, if the board was to proceed this would make it much more difficult for board members who support a tax increase.”
Vice Chairman Steve Teuber said any reports centering on Dozier’s delinquent taxes are a sign of disrespect toward a public official.
“How would it have anything to do with the function of the school district?” he asked. “I don’t believe it was news, or that what her status was on her tax bill has any implication on how she does her job.”
Teuber added that Dozier’s tax issues also have no influence on how she will vote to approve or disapprove a tax increase later this year.
He said he is unaware of whether Dozier’s recent absences have any connection to her tax bill.
“I don’t know or will I ask her about her personal affairs,” said Teuber. “She was out of town on personal business.”
Some in the community feel that due to the state of the economy now is not the time for a tax increase, although the revenue could help save programs slated to be cut, including elementary arts and music programs.
A super majority of the school board is required for a tax increase to go forward. If approved, it would increase local property tax bills from $18.75 to $68.75, depending on the value of a home.
For a home worth $200,000, for example, tax bills would increase by $43.75.