SALES-TAX VOTE FALTERS UNDER WEIGHT OF DISTRUST
In Daytona Beach too many of our roads need re-paving, too many streets need sidewalks, and rain floods too many homes. Every year, there is too little money to fix these problems.
It’s easy to look at the ½ cent sales tax as a simple, painless way to solve these problems, especially when its estimated that tourists will pay 30-40% of this tax increase.
But should we trust another penny to our elected officials, members of the governing bodies that should have prevented these problems in the first place? They are asking us to trust them, saying that a citizen oversight committee will prioritize spending of our ½ cent revenues. But that committee is advisory; spending decisions will be made by the same governing bodies that have proven poor stewards of our money in the past. If they’d gathered and spent our tax dollars responsibly, would we need this special ballot initiative?
Too many of our city and county tax dollars have been invested, in one form or another, in partnership with wealthy developers, for example $45M with the International Speedway Corporation and $4.5M with Tanger Outlet Mall. Our tax dollars are still repaying the massive loan to develop the Shops at Ocean Walk. The long over-due increase of impact fees allowed wealthy developers to profit and grow without adequate consideration for our environment or infrastructure. If the Legislature doesn’t approve a bill to cut the cost, Daytona Beach could pay $8.7 million to purchase the rights to City Island; what partnerships will they develop there? Just a few weeks ago, the City Commission voted to reimburse Hyatt Brown $800,000 a year for 50 years ($40M) to cover his maintenance costs on the Riverfront Esplanade. Has anyone seen any documentation on the return on our investment of tax dollars?
Meanwhile, in Daytona Beach, we don’t have enough money for our roadway purposes, one of the most basic services a government provides. We have only $800,000 a year to spend on our existing roadways. But, as we learned during one of the city’s tax education meetings, we need $2.5M-$3M a year to keep those roadways in good condition over their 20 year life span. That shortfall in dollars has grown in full sunshine over many years. Our governing bodies haven’t done enough to address that growing shortfall, partly because it is politically expensive and partly because it is politically expedient to invest our tax dollars in partnership with wealthy developers.
While all the tax dollars invested in partnership with wealthy developers might not be available to use specifically on the roadway budget, they are all still our tax dollars at work. Our tax dollars need to work harder on basics before we invest in the profit and growth of wealthy developers and before we agree to pay ½ cent more on our purchases.
--This ballot initiative is costing the taxpayers $500,000 – is that a good use of our tax dollars?
--If this ballot initiative passes, the city may bond the money at a 2%-4% interest rate – is that a good use of our tax dollars?
--Using this tax increase to address our overdue infrastructure needs fails to set up a plan to avoid ending up in the same place in 20 years. Without a plan in place, is this tax increase anything more than a Band-Aid?
--Volusia Citizens for Better Roads and Clean Water is a PAC to support this tax increase. They have a war chest of $222,156, much of it collected from the wealthy developers who’ve already benefited from our tax dollars. Will these same developers influence the spending of our tax dollars?
Taxes are the price we pay to build and maintain our community. Our tax dollars should be managed by elected officials who earn our trust and are willing to be held accountable. Until our elected officials show a deeper appreciation for the tax dollars we already give them, we cannot support giving them any more dollars to spend. We do need the money, but we need trust and accountability more.
Anne Ruby wrote this on behalf of Citizens 4 Responsible Development (C4RD)
Published in the Daytona Beach News-Journal, April 23, 2019