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Ormond Beach Observer Friday, Jan. 11, 2019 7 months ago

Volusia moves forward with half-cent sales tax, Ormond to pay 5% of special election cost

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With a special election estimated to cost about half-a-million dollars, the cost has been split among all government entities in the county.
by: Jarleene Almenas News Editor

Should Volusia County continue to aim for a May special election to enact a half-cent sales tax for infrastructure, the city of Ormond Beach will need to contribute roughly 5% of the cost.

On Thursday, Jan. 10, the Volusia County Council voted 6-1, with Councilwoman Heather Post dissenting, to bring back an ordinance for the special election at the Feb. 5 meeting. Holding a special election this spring will cost about $500,000, and Ormond will be expected to put $25,000 toward it. The proportionate share of the election cost was calculated based on the distribution percentages of the revenues generated by the sales tax, if it were to be approved. 

There was some hesitancy from some council members in moving the sales tax forward with such a tight deadline. 

Post — who also questioned the 400-person survey that stated 59% of voters would be in favor of the sales tax — said that while there is a momentum to get this done within local government, she hasn't seen that with the public.

“This is not a decision being made by the government entities," Post said. "This is a decision that has to be made by the public, and I do not see the public coming on board with a sales tax imposed on them, certainly not by May."

Councilwoman Deb Denys was also initially concerned about the May deadline, as well as making a financial commitment without getting consensus from all the municipalities. Volusia County will bear almost half of the half-million dollar cost for the election. 

She later changed her mind after hearing comments from Interim County Manager George Recktenwald and other fellow council members. Newly-sworn in Councilman Ben Johnson said he didn't think the council should let the cost of the election "mess us up" on the sales tax. 

“This isn’t about growth in this county, it’s about fixing what has not been done in the past," Johnson said. "Gas taxes are not keeping up with what we have.”

Recktenwald said he has seen the cities come together unlike ever before. Last year, all 16 Volusia municipalities were on board with adding a sales tax referendum to the ballot. This time, the referendum would be placed on a mail-in ballot. 

“There’s an opportunity here with a lot of momentum, and I think that with the people that are out there that will be doing this, I have a lot confidence that we can get people to pay," Recktenwald said.

The cost of the election for cities was briefly discussed during the Roundtable of Elected Officials meeting on Monday, Jan. 7, with most of the city managers and elected officials voicing their support for the sales tax referendum. Only Holly Hill Mayor Chris Via expressed concern over the cost. There were no representatives present from the city of Daytona Beach, which is the governmental entity with the third highest share of the cost at just over $41,000. 

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