Deterred by the prospect of a very long general-election ballot in November, elected officials on the Volusia County Council and in the cities are backing away from asking voters this fall about adding another half-cent sales tax.
The question was all but set for the Tuesday, Nov. 6, ballot, pending an affirmative vote by the County Council that was scheduled for May 1. At a meeting April 30, however the Elected Officials Roundtable called for caution and restraint in the political campaign cycle now beginning.
Instead of pressing forward with their request for an add-on sales tax to pay for transportation improvements and other infrastructure projects, the elected leaders agreed to take a timeout, regroup and plan for a referendum next spring.
“I’m very disappointed because we’ve worked on this for a long time,” Port Orange Mayor Don Burnette said. “If we’re going to have a special election … we’ve got to have some kind of a time frame.”
The meeting of the Elected Officials Roundtable at Daytona Beach International Airport was a special meeting called to consider whether the County Council should act on the sales-tax proposal this week.
County Chair Ed Kelley said he intends to recommend the County Council “take no action” on the proposed ordinance calling for a countywide sales-tax vote. Kelley, a stalwart supporter of the sales tax, said there is “misinformation about impact fees,” including a perception that “all these big developers are getting a free ride.”
Impact fees are charges the county and many of the cities impose on new development to pay for roads and other capital outlays to meet the demands of growth. The county first levied impact fees in 1986, and the impact-fees money is supposed to be used for building new thoroughfares or adding lanes to existing ones.
DeLand Mayor Robert Apgar agreed the County Council should “postpone” a referendum on the sales tax, but he also urged his fellow elected chief to “give us a target date,” perhaps “the March-April time frame.”
Others suggested the momentum for the local tax may subside, unless there is a determined effort to slate a referendum for early 2019.
“Keep the ball rolling,” Orange City Mayor Gary Blair urged.
The Nov. 6 ballot, Volusia County Elections Supervisor Lisa Lewis told the Elected Officials Roundtable, will feature a U.S. Senate race, the U.S. House of Representatives District 6 contest, races for governor and the state Cabinet, plus races for the County Council and the West Volusia Hospital Authority, among others, plus a host of municipal elections.
Additionally, there are eight proposed constitutional amendments, and some of the cities may wish to add charter-change propositions. Lewis said all the contents of the ballot will probably not be known until the Sept. 5 deadline.
“I’m disappointed that it’s not going to be on the ballot, because the ballot is going to be so convoluted,” Blair said.
Kelley reluctantly agreed to recommend a pause In the yearlong sales-tax effort, telling others at the table about some other advice he had received.
“I read my horoscope this morning, which I usually do, by the way, but it said, ‘Think twice before you take on any challenges,’” he said with a chuckle.
Kelley reiterated a key selling point about the sales tax: “40 percent to 50 percent of the tax will be paid by nonresidents.”