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Opinion
Ormond Beach Observer Thursday, Apr. 18, 2019 5 months ago

YES vs. NO: Two Ormond Beach politicians for the Volusia sales tax, two against

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Ed Kelley and Bill Partington vs. Heather Post and Joe Hannoush
by: Guest Writer

YES: Support your community

By Ed Kelley

Ed Kelley

We have been in discussions about the need for a local sales tax option for at least the past three years, and through the efforts of the managers, 16 cities and the county, we are at this point.

The Volusia County Council, at the request of the county’s 16 cities, passed Ordinance 2019-4 authorizing a referendum to be held in May for a half-cent infrastructure sales tax. If approved by voters, the half-cent sales tax would generate an estimated $45 million a year for the county and cities to use for transportation and water quality projects.

Passage of the referendum would increase Volusia County’s sales tax from 6.5% to 7%. (61 of the 67 counties currently have at least 7% including our neighbors Flagler and Seminole). This half-cent increase would add an extra 2 cents to the cost of a $4 cup of coffee, or 25 cents to a $50 dinner. The tax would apply only to the first $5,000 of any purchase, resulting in a maximum additional cost of $25 for any large purchase. Of course medical items, prescription drugs, most groceries, and fuel are exempt.

Volusia’s large tourism industry attracts more than 10 million visitors annually. It is estimated that 35% of the money raised from the half-cent tax would be paid by tourists to help fund the water quality and transportation infrastructure they also use when visiting.

Monies collected from the half-cent sales tax would be used only for capital projects on roads, sidewalks, bridges, water quality, stormwater and flood control.

  • To insure that the revenues will be used as defined:
  • Florida law governs the expenditures.
  • The ballot language creates a local, enforceable ordinance.
  • Public hearings will be held before monies expended.
  • A local citizens committee will be created (one from each city and one from the county).

So far over $1 billion of currently needed projects have been identified by the 16 cities and can be found online at www.volusia.org/salestax.

Additional needs for the optional half-cent sales tax: Federal earmarks for projects are gone, and any federal funding will require participation or “local skin in the game." Having available revenues will allow cities and the county to apply for the numerous grants being made available by state and federal agencies for water quality and transportation.

If passed, the half-cent sales tax will go into effect Jan. 1, 2020, and be effective for 20 years.

Please support your community and vote yes.

Ed Kelley, of Ormond Beach, is the Volusia County Council Chair.

 

NO: Taxation is not the answer

By Heather Post

Heather Post

I can confirm that the county has a long list of near critical/critical infrastructure needs. I acknowledge that being able to put additional monies into the county budget (from anywhere) would be helpful.

However, I have observed the rushed process through which the sales tax issue has evolved and been propelled by the CEO Alliance, and it has in no way given me comfort that Volusia County leadership is moving in the right direction. 

Response to constituent concerns about the “citizen review committee” (which I honestly believe will ultimately have zero impact on decisions made and is simply another distraction technique thrown in to convince voters of a desired outcome) and about trust in leadership have been dismissive at best.

I value public/private partnerships; however, funding streams must be provided for a tangible benefit for the public. Providing incentives and paying for infrastructure surrounding pet projects while funding is left unavailable for routine infrastructure is unacceptable. Smart/responsible growth must be addressed as well.

The public is being given the message to just vote yes and the long wish lists of infrastructure/water projects being passed around between the cities and the county will happen. This is entirely impossible with the revenue expected to be generated. Revenue is slated to be directed toward a few select projects.

I think the question to be asked is how did we end up in this dire situation in the first place, and what is being done to change that process/mindset?

A constituent said, “More money and no reason to change the way they do business." That constituent was absolutely right. In another year or two of conducting business in the same way that has been done for years, will the citizens be taxed again? 

I’m not willing to tax the hard-working people of Volusia County on a gamble that the money will be spent on the right priorities. Taxing the citizens is not the answer.

A no vote isn’t the end all. A no vote forces a leadership focus on addressing priorities and looking outside the box, of which I have not seen a majority willingness to do otherwise. 

No matter what your vote, please make sure to VOTE and have your voice heard.  A hurried, special election in May with a mail-in ballot was not done without serious intent to influence the outcome desired by those who initially suggested it. 

Heather Post represents Zone 4, including Ormond Beach, on the Volusia County Council.

 

YES: Pave Ormond's roads 

By Bill Partington

Bill Partington

The half-cent sales tax will help Ormond Beach and all the cities in Volusia County repair and build better roads, and clean up our waterways. 

This half-penny is unique, in that all the dollars from this half cent will stay right here in our community. Everyone who makes a nonexempt purchase pays the tax including the +10 million visitors to our beaches and other attractions. Let tourists contribute to an estimated 30%-40% of the total tax collected.

The half-penny referendum is vital to the city of Ormond Beach to help upgrade our aging infrastructure and help fund long-term capital investments for roads, sidewalks and water quality improvements. It allows for investment in the city’s infrastructure without the need for a concurrent increase in property taxes. The city would receive an estimated $2.3 million annually, which equates to an annual millage increase of 0.7 mills or approximately $70 per household.

In Ormond Beach, we spend over $500,000 annually to repair, repave and maintain the city’s roadways. It is expensive to keep up with the needs. One mile of roadway overlay costs $100,000 per mile. If the road needs reconstruction, those costs soar to nearly $5 million for a new two-lane road. The city has almost 180 road miles, using our $500,000 budget, we can annually repair, re-mill, reconstruct only 3.5 miles, taking us over 50 years to complete the rest of the city’s roadways.

Sales tax is not collected on essentials such as groceries, medications, baby food, baby formula, and medical supplies and services. Sales tax is also limited on big purchases. It applies only to the first $5,000 of big purchases like vehicles. The sales tax is limited to sunset in 20 years.

How can you be sure the cities and county will use the money as its intended? State law authorizes the sales tax for specific purposes only. The ballot language further limits the use of the sales taxes. We as elected officials must approve each capital project. And finally, there is a citizen oversight board that will ensure the tax dollars were spent as intended.

Bill Partington is the mayor of Ormond Beach.

 

NO: Send a message

By Joe Hannoush

Joe Hannoush

The half-cent sales tax increase, on a mail-in ballot special election, will cost Volusia and city taxpayers almost $500,000. No matter if the result of the election is an increase in the local sales tax, or no increase, the taxpayers are still forced to pay for it. That alone is reason enough to vote no on this sales tax increase and send our city and county elected officials a message to not try this wasteful tactic again.

We elected them because we trust they will be fiscally responsible with our hard-earned money. Obviously, that is not the case.

This was not an expense our elected officials had to make on behalf of the residents in Volusia County. If this vote had to happen at all, it could have been placed on a General Election ballot so there is not a waste of taxpayer dollars. These same government bodies are the ones that decided to give big tax breaks — sorry, "incentives" — to businesses in the sports, development, home-building and insurance industries, at the expense of the everyday mom-and-pop taxpayer that is likely living paycheck to paycheck. It was only months ago the County Council, and some municipal governments, voted to adopt the rollback rate for property taxes. And now this sales tax increase vote is being promoted as necessary without having a plan B. What changed in those few months?

Only recently were impact fees raised after about 15 years of a flat fee. Is the issue of building and repairing roads only very recently become an issue and one that is such an emergency that it requires a costly mail-in ballot special election — a first of its kind in the history of Volusia County? I've heard that road material costs may be going up. So are glass recycling costs. This does not mean taxes have to go up. Maybe innovation, such as using recycled glass mixed with asphalt (glassphalt — look it up), could be a way to cut costs. Perhaps a new revenue stream could be used. Selling naming rights to road or construction projects to help off set costs of the project. Expanding the Adopt-A-Road program (organizations actually pay a small fee and are responsible for cleaning up trash in exchange for having the name of the organization on a sign on the road). Dominos Pizza had a promotion where they will fix potholes in your city so your pizzas get to you without cheese being stuck to the top of their boxes. The point is, the answer isn't always "Raise taxes. There is no plan B." 

Joe Hannoush lost in his bid for a seat in the Florida House of Representatives as a Libertarian in 2018.

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