Sales tax? Don’t bail the county out

Al Abbatiello

 

Fruit Cove

Let’s have a sales tax hike? This “request” from the Ponte Vedra Coalition as stated in The Record’s Sunday editorial is, in my opinion, a misguided effort.

I was asked to help in their efforts to encourage Commissioner Jimmy Johns and the county commission to let taxpayers vote on a 1 percent sales tax increase, but decided I couldn’t, in good conscience, support the effort.

I don’t advocate bailing out the BCC by encouraging citizens to “petition” the commission to place a sales tax on the 2018 ballot or a special election in 2017. I believe the commissioners and county administration need to face the “heat” from the taxpayers rather than give them cover with a citizens’ initiative.

Two years ago taxpayers were denied the opportunity to vote for a 1 percent sales tax when Commissioner Johns cast the deciding vote denying taxpayers the opportunity to vote on the issue. The discussion for a sales tax then is the very same reasons one is needed now.

At that time it was also suggested splitting the 1 percent hike with the school district, but that ended with the commission’s denial. The school district then held a special election winning a ½-cent tax increase. A 1 percent sales tax now actually means a total 1 ½-cent tax increase within a two-year timeframe.

Over the years, county administration and commissioners knew deferred capital and maintenance expenses would eventually end in a financial dilemma. Two years ago, Commissioner McClure pointed out every new development is a “contingent liability,” eventually meaning new roads, maintenance of those roads, fire stations, fire equipment, fire and police personnel, schools, parks, etc. but new development approvals continued and capital and maintenance needs were further deferred.

County budget hearings suggest the “sky is falling” with numerous budget shortfalls and the fact we’re $300 million behind in capital expenditures and deferred maintenance. Typically we’ll hear the county will need to cut services if taxes aren’t raised. I have no sympathy for the administration; they need to face the ire of taxpayers.

Further adding to our financial distress are the actions of state legislators, including the three representing our county. Collectively, they voted for an additional $25,000 homeowner’s tax exemption to be decided in the 2018 general election. This means St. Johns County taxpayers will likely take another $9- $10 million “hit,” further prompting county administration to find a way to tax taxpayers. This added exemption was nothing more than state politicians pandering for reelection votes. State government gives with one hand, causing counties to take with the other.

Politicians should take the heat for their behavior in creating the financial crisis. Giving St. Johns County politicians cover by advocating a citizen-led petition for tax increases, in my opinion, is not a good solution. If they need the money, let them decide how best to solve the problem, justify it and face the consequences in the next two election cycles.

A sales tax isn’t the only solution; the County can also look to increasing gas tax, impact fees on development or additional bed tax before considering raising sales taxes or ad-valorem taxes. Visitors and newcomers to St. Johns County will also share in these potential taxes, as they, too, cause impacts to county infrastructure.

Impact fees should increase considering the fact new home construction helps create increased population and the many impacts created. When I moved to St. Johns County into new construction, I paid the fees to build that home and other services. Newcomers moving to St. Johns County to enjoy a great quality of life and the best school district in all of Florida should pay their share.

Tom Reynolds 6 days ago
 Plus it was reported a couple weeks back by the St Augustine Record, that the County is to receive an additional 12.4 million dollars in additional revenue. That is due to the increased property values. And the property values continue to rise so next year it will be a HIGHER FIGURE. 

  There is ONE thing about the tax talk that needs to be cleared up. It
is NOT the County Administration or the  County Commission that is asking or seeking this one CENT sales tax increase ! 

 The one cent SALES TAX TALKS have been created by one Ponte Vedra resident in particular. Then this person has convinced a few others to be the FRONT Group aka Ponte Vedra Coalition for her personal Campaign for a ONE CENT sales tax. There is a high probability of a mental health issue with this person who is behind this Unneeded ONE CENT SALES TAX ! . 

The FRONT GROUP aka Ponte Vedra Coalition,  CAN NOT get this on a 2017 BALLOT because there is not enough time. According to the St Augustine Record s first article on this issue, it would have to be on Supervisor of Election desk by AUGUST 1st 2017.  Florida Law requires advanced  " NOTICE " by advertising on issues like this and there is NOT ENOUGH TIME ! 

Thank you Mr. Abbatiello,

Tom Reynolds, a 2018 SJC Commission Candidate 
Bill McClure 6 days ago
Great comments Al! Spot on!
X Xx 5 days ago
Nice to Know that, they allow
You to use the computer @ the Ole Folks home Alvin.
 

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