County Council Chair Ed Kelley said the council did what it said it would: raise impact fees and set a deadline. Now, the council is focused on the sales tax.
The future of the half-cent sales tax is now in the residents' hands as the Volusia County Council voted 6-1 on Tuesday, Feb. 5, to impose a referendum via a special mail-in ballot election scheduled for May 21.
The election is estimated to cost $490,000, with Volusia County bearing about half of the overall cost. The rest of it will be funded by the municipalities, based on their projected profit shares should the tax pass. The city of Ormond Beach has vowed to contribute its 5% share, amounting to $35,000. If enacted, Ormond is estimated to gain $2.3 million for infrastructure funding.
A half-cent sales tax has been in the works in Volusia since the beginning of last year, but was placed on hold in May 2018 as a result of an unexpected audit requirement sprung by legislature and the discovery that impact fees had not been raised for 15 years.
After raising impact fees last December, it didn't take long for the half-cent sales tax discussion to be brought back — By Jan. 10, following a roundtable meetings of local elected officials, the council asked staff to draft an ordinance for a special election.
Not all the council members agreed this was the right move. County Councilwoman Heather Post, who dissented against the motion, said that she doesn't feel taxing the residents is the answer to the county's infrastructure needs.
“It’s a regressive move that unfairly taxes and puts the burdens on the citizens in the county that can least afford it," she said.
She asked that the county find another solution, and that the council sit down and discuss its priorities to make decisions on areas that need to be addressed. If the half-cent sales tax ordinance was passed, which it was, she asked for the vote to be delayed until the next general election.
County Council Deb Denys asked council members to raise their hands if they had served on a transportation board for more than one year. When Post raised her hand, Denys said being an alternate didn't count.
Denys illustrated the dwindling funding for infrastructure with the Turnbull Bay Bridge project in New Smyrna Beach, saying the cost of the project went up as it went along. She showed a slide from a Florida Department of Transportation stating bills passed by legislature in 2018 reduced infrastructure revenue by $71.2 million.
“If you think you’re going to find another funding source, you haven’t been to a transportation planning meeting at all," Denys said.