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Breaking Down Theresa Carli Pontieri’s Rebuke of Ed Danko, and Danko’s Immediate Response

ⓒ AskFlagler

At the Palm Coast City Council meeting on Tuesday, Theresa Carli Pontieri devoted her closing comments primarily to a lengthy and pointed rebuke of her colleague, Vice Mayor Ed Danko. She did so over speaker phone, as she’s presently away from work on maternity leave. Her comments were the culmination of a growing rift between the two, recently stemming over their clashing philosophies on the millage rate in Palm Coast.

Councilwoman Pontieri took several minutes to lambast Danko, without naming him explicitly but with no ambiguity whatsoever, over social media posts and campaign narratives he’s employed criticizing her actions on the dais. Danko did not respond on-camera during the meeting, but he agreed to an interview afterward in which he gave his full response to her remarks. The full, unedited transcripts of both Pontieri’s remarks and Danko’s response are available at the bottom of this article.

In short, Pontieri takes exception with claims by Danko that she supports a tax increase. She disputed that what she supports is a tax increase, and that she wouldn’t be willing to go along with what he considered holding the line under the right circumstances. She also claimed that Danko’s rhetoric while campaigning is straining the ability of the City Council to work together effectively. Danko countered this by pointing to two other instances in which he feels she pushed for a tax hike, and chalked his criticisms up to routine disagreement.

Both Pontieri’s and Danko’s assertions about each other contain truths and portions which are questionable. What follows is an item-by-item breakdown of their current dispute, what each member is saying, and how much of it is true.

Background

Ed Danko was elected to the Palm Coast City Council in 2020. In lieu of re-election, he’s currently campaigning for a seat on the Flagler County Commission. Theresa Carli Pontieri was elected in 2022, and so will not have to campaign again until her seat is up in 2026, if she chooses to run once more. Danko is using his preference for a rollback millage rate as a major factor in his campaigning (more on that further down).

What has Ed Danko said about Theresa Carli Pontieri on social media?

Ed Danko has publicly criticized Theresa Carli Pontieri on his personal Facebook a number of times in recent weeks. The two with which Pontieri took particular exception are as follows:

  • Unlike ‘Tax and Spend Theresa’ I believe we can find places to cut the waste and foolish spending.
  • It is a shame that some City Council members want to raise your taxes. Guess they have not felt the effects of Bideneconomics?? (Caption for a news article covering he and Pontieri’s disputes)

What is a millage rate?

A millage rate is the amount of money per $1,000 of value that a property owner pays to a municipality. The current millage rate in Palm Coast is $4.2570, meaning that a property worth $300,000 would pay $1,277.10 in property taxes to the City of Palm Coast (4.257 times 300). Palm Coast’s millage rate for FY 2024-25 is the current battleground of Danko and Pontieri’s differing ideologies.

Is maintaining the same millage rate a tax increase?

Yes and no. If property values go up from year to year, the same millage rate can result in higher taxes due to a more valuable asset being taxed at the same rate. If the City Council were to leave the millage rate the same, the tax rate would not have been raised. The actual dollar amount residents are paying in taxes will have increased provided their property value increased, as most are expected to do. Keeping the same millage rate is not inherently a tax increase, but it results in one if property values are expected to rise. That’s the situation Palm Coast faces. If property values were to decrease one day, keeping the same millage rate would be a tax decrease. That is not expected to happen in Palm Coast this year.

A rollback millage rate, which Ed Danko is pushing for, is when the millage rate is set so that residents do not pay higher total taxes on their properties than they did the year before. It is not any one rate, it’s whatever rate city staff present with the goal of keeping residents from paying more money than they did last year. It’s usually included as one option out of several for the City Council to pick. The Council selected a rollback rate last year for the current fiscal year.

Keeping the same millage rate would almost certainly increase revenue for the city, and thus pad the budget. The amount it does so would depend on how much properties appreciate, but it’s often treated as covering increases in the cost of goods, rather than something that could create funding for entirely new projects. If a rollback rate is adopted, it could place a strain on the city budget as costs rise and they’re denied a revenue increase to keep up. It would, conversely, save residents from having to pay more.

Did Theresa Carli Pontieri advocate for a tax increase?

Again, yes and no. Theresa Carli Pontieri has yet to decisively commit to any one millage rate for next year. She has expressed her concern that the strain placed upon the budget by a second straight rollback rate may not be tenable, and cautioned against going in that direction again. “We can’t afford a rollback, not a full rollback,” she said last month. “Not if we’re looking at the infrastructure needs of our city.” If the city went with anything but a full rollback, the tax would increase.

She has also maintained, however, that she’d support a rollback rate if the budgetary impact of doing so can be offset by adding revenue elsewhere. “If we can find a way to cut taxes and keep the same quality of life and provide all the needs for our residents and preserve what they have come to expect as far as a level of services, then I will vote for a rollback,” she said Tuesday. Danko has staunchly advocated for budget cuts instead of revenue expansion.

Pontieri sharply criticized Danko’s assertion that maintaining the millage rate is a tax increase. “Keeping the millage rate at its current rate is not raising taxes,” she said Tuesday. “I think that that is a large piece of misinformation that needs to be corrected immediately. If we keep the millage rate at what it currently is, we are holding the line on taxes, we’re not raising taxes.” She is correct that doing so is not a rate increase, but to say that taxes wouldn’t increase with a maintained millage rate within the context of this budget cycle is inaccurate. It would only be a true statement if property values didn’t appreciate at all, and that scenario is not a substantial possibility.

As far as other instances in which Danko alleged Pontieri has advocated for tax increases (see his comments below), her actual stances haven’t been so black-and-white. Danko accused her of supporting a special assessment on canal residents, an area-specific tax that would fund dredging for the saltwater canals. Pontieri floated the idea in April, but explicitly said she wasn’t in favor of it at that stage. She did support adding an up-to-6% franchise fee on FPL customers’ bill in order to allow a rollback millage rate, but this fee directly hits FPL, not residents. Given, FPL is in a position to almost assuredly pass that fee down to residents, but it would ultimately be their prerogative, and not a tax imposed on residents by the city directly. The fee did not come to pass.

Did Ed Danko vote against his proposed rollback rate last year?

Yes, with a little more to the story. Pontieri highlighted Danko’s vote against a rollback rate as relevant to his own criticisms of her for not supporting it as directly as he is. “I find that quite audacious,” Pontieri said, “that the person that made this comment did not vote for the rollback last year.” She’s correct – Danko did not vote in a favor of a proposal that included a rollback rate.

To justify this vote, Danko has maintained that the rollback rate, by itself, was not what he was opposing. He’s claimed he opposed the aforementioned plan to impose a franchise fee on Florida Power & Light in order to subsidize a rollback rate, due to his opinion that it would have residents still paying extra, just in a different bill.

Pontieri is, literally speaking, correct. But it’s worth pointing out that Danko never opposed the principle of a rollback rate, just a particular execution of one that was laid forth by the Council. The Council passed the rollback and then their franchise fee fell through, forcing the city to account for the lower-than-expected property tax revenue in other ways.


Councilwoman Theresa Carli Pontieri makes her remarks at about 2:12:52 in the below video.

Theresa Carli Pontieri’s Full Remarks

Since our last meeting it’s come to my attention that on social media, one of our Council members has been lying about both me and our City Council’s intentions. Additionally, while knocking on doors in my district this person has been attacking me personally…I’m not sure why as I’m not running for any race. I want to put a stop to this behavior before we really get into the thick of the campaign cycle, because I think it will inhibit the work that we’re able to do on City Council.

“We need to ensure that there’s no spread of misinformation as we go into the thick of the budget cycle, and we need to make sure that in the next six months as the five of us are working together on the dais that there are not personal qualms or issues that could keep us from working together for the betterment of our city. I’m committed to that, I’m committed to moving past this, and being able to work with my Council members. I need that same commitment from my colleagues, and I’m not confident right now that that is existent.

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“With regards to the social media, there were two items that were posted by one of our colleagues that are both factually and egregiously false. One is that Council members want to raise our residents’ property taxes, and two are that I am a ‘tax-and-spend politician’. Verbatim the comment was that I am ‘Tax and Spend Theresa’. Regarding the first comment about our Council members the exact comment was, ‘it’s a shame that some Council members want to raise your taxes’.

“The truth is, all of us sat up on the dais at the last workshop and said that we did not want to raise taxes and that we did want to grant a full property rollback if it was possible, knowing all of the needs the city has and the quality of life we want to guarantee our residents. So for this person to say that we want to raise taxes is wholly false. Furthermore, keeping the millage rate at its current rate is not raising taxes, and I think that that is a large piece of misinformation that needs to be corrected immediately. If we keep the millage rate at what it currently is, we are holding the line on taxes, we’re not raising taxes. I find that quite audacious that the person that made this comment did not vote for the rollback last year.

“As I’ve said numerous times, if we can find a way to cut taxes and keep the same quality of life and provide all the needs for our residents and preserve what they have come to expect as far as a level of services, then I will vote for a rollback. But it takes work, you can’t just sit up on the dais and say you want to cut taxes and then not find a way to get there. Saying that you want to cut taxes is not cutting taxes. And so as we move forward into this budget cycle, I’m again going to say it’s incumbent upon each and every one of us to do the work, to find the cuts or to find alternative revenue sources to make up for the difference that you want to save in the property tax realm.

“With regards to the comment made against me personally, I don’t even find it necessary to address that, because I know for a fact when it comes to saving this city money and being fiscally conservative, I have been at the very top of trying to find alternative revenue sources.

“My number one set priority was to get a grant writer for the city, and you know what? We now have a grants administrator whose sole job is to oversee and get grants for our city. That is work. That is finding solutions to problems we have. Engaging micro-servicing rather than milling and paving is finding is finding alternative ways to save money and still get infrastructure needs taken care of. It’s the exact reason why we’re getting 28 of our residential roads redone. That’s because of creative thinking and work.

“So I want to know from our Council…and Mayor, you’re obviously running [for re-election], I know Councilman Klufas is running [for County Commission], I know Councilman Danko is running [for County Commission], I just…I want to make it very clear that I’m willing to set these comments aside, but it needs to stop. The spread of misinformation in an effort to campaign and prop somebody’s own self up is not helping our city. It’s not helping our Council actually address the needs of the city and come up with resolutions that are going to be felt by our residents. It’s not representing our residents, it’s representing themselves.

“And so I make a plea to my colleagues to please, as we go into this election cycle, keep in mind what your job is over the next six months. You are currently elected to represent the residents of Palm Coast. You are not elected right now to be campaigning, and to be spreading misinformation in an effort to campaign.”

Ed Danko’s Interview Response

Ed Danko: “Her neighbors are pissed off at her. Her neighbors are angry at her because she made the suggestion of putting a special assessment on folks that live on the canal. So I’ve knocked on a lot of doors in the C Section, and they’re not happy about that. So that’s a tax.

“Second, she talks about the fact that I did not vote for the millage rollback rate last year, and it was very simple: because she had attached the increased franchise fee on your Florida Power & Light bill to that millage rollback. So we get a ‘pay Peter and rob Paul’, sort of situation there. So yes, she says ‘oh, you didn’t vote for the millage rate rollback’. No, because I knew what you were doing next. And I fought that 6% franchise fee increase, and we stopped it.

“She doesn’t understand what a full millage rollback rate is. That means you pay no taxes next year that are higher than what you paid last year. So she thinks that she can have a millage rate, keep it the same, and people will pay the same amount. That’s not how it works. Prices go up, that means property taxes go up. That’s why you have a millage rate rollback, to keep the tax same.

“I’m sorry if she doesn’t like it, but I’m not taking campaign advice from someone who doesn’t even know what they’re talking about. And for her to pull that stunt here tonight is just absolutely absurd.”

Chris Gollon: Do you agree with her assertion that the way you’ve communicated those thoughts on social media makes it hard to have a working relationship?

ED: “I’m not the one that said ‘let’s have a special assessment’, I’m not the one that wants to have that special assessment on the C Section and those canals, I don’t believe in class warfare. We don’t have special assessments on folks that live on our golf course when work needs to be done. If a new road needs to go in the L Section or the R Section, we don’t come and say ‘let’s do a special assessment’. We are a community, and class warfare is just unacceptable to me.”

CG: There was one post where you did call her ‘Tax and Spend Theresa’ —

ED: “Hey, if the name fits, wear it.”

CG: You stand by that statement?

ED: “I made it, it’s on social media, she wants to tax people, and she wants to spend their money. I mean, a 6% franchise fee on an electric bill is a tax. It’s not a franchise fee, it’s a tax. A special assessment on the C Section because they live on the canal…I mean, [it’s] our biggest amenity and these folks have been paying in the stormwater fees, which that’s part of our system. Well, that would be a tax.

“Not rolling back that millage rate to make sure that folks don’t pay a penny more than they paid this year, next year, well gee. That would be a tax. So I’m sorry she doesn’t like it, but she’s talking about raising taxes, what does she expect me to call her?”

CG: How do you feel about your ability to collaborate with Theresa going forward?

ED: “We can collaborate, but we’re going to disagree on things. If she wants another franchise fee on our electric bill, I think we’re going to disagree. If she doesn’t want the full millage rollback rate, I think we’re going to disagree. If she can’t help find places where we can cut, where I think there are places we can cut, we’re going to disagree. She wants to put a special assessment on the folks who live on our canals just so we can do dredging? I think we’re going to disagree.

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“That’s not a matter of working together, sometimes working together means you don’t agree. I’m sorry if that got under her skin a little bit, but I’m talking to the people that live in her district when I knock on their doors. They’re not happy with her.”

Written By

Chris Gollon is a Flagler County resident since 2004, as well as a staple of the local independent music scene and avid observer of Central Florida politics, arts, and recreation.

2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. Donna

    May 10, 2024 at 4:39 pm

    People who are fooled by the man who now purports that he supports the people of today to become elected to the county need to invest their time in the youtube videos of yester”year” when said Councilman would never support his fellow man and would not be considerate of rolling back taxes. Remember Ms. Pontieri was NOT part of the vote to self-elect this astronomical raises of this current sitting board, nor was she was part of the recent shocking dismissal of the release of City Manager, nor is she is pushing for hiring of the new manager before the “possible” change of command as we await the results of the upcoming election period. Why not see what November brings before we put in a new high level responsibility of City Manager who sits at the right hand of the Mayor to not be the choice of who is the Mayor in January! Look closely my dear friends and neighbors, open your eyes, your ears, attend meetings and realize their is always a hidden agenda when your interviewing for a NEW Position . . .

  2. Gary Kunnas

    May 11, 2024 at 7:58 pm

    Theresa dose not belong on council. If you take the time to look up her background you would see why. Just another liberal mouth. Two years ago wanted to raise sales tax 1/2 % for roads. Where is the sales tax on fuels sales go ? No answer. Then it was the franchise fee on our utilities. At her circus at the community center it was for roads again. Now the 1/2 % increase is for new
    sheriff’s. She just pulls this stuff out of the air to see what sticks. These increases are untraceable and can be used for what ever council wants to spend it on. All of us in our high water bills pay for dredging the fresh water canals. Holland put a lot of pork in the water bill. The funds can be used for what ever they want to use it for. They bring in a new garbage co. Saying it will be a savings. Why then did the monthly rate go up ? I believe it was $10/ month. Since the fresh water canals have not been dredged lately where is that unused tax money ? In the swale tax is money for dredging the salt water canals ????? When you drive around and look at the end of each canal you see all the sediment washed in by rain water. The best example is just North of Colorado Ct and Palm harbor Dr above the fire house. Yet the city engineer tells me they clean out the catch basins every month.wow no scratch marks from removing the grids to do it are seen. ???? Land that had no seawalls eroded into the canals from rainstorm. Many areas you can walk across in waist deep water in high tide. Was set at 7 feet mean low tide by Levitt. Once they put these taxes on they never come off.

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