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City and county commissions discuss adding half-cent sales tax in 2022 referendum

BY JENNIFER CABRERA

In a joint meeting on December 6, the Gainesville City Commission and Alachua County Commission discussed renewing the Wild Spaces Public Places sales tax early and adding another half-cent sales tax for infrastructure and housing. The initiative would be on the November 2022 ballot.

Gainesville Mayor Lauren Poe explained that it’s a little unusual to try to renew the sales tax two years early. Wild Spaces Public Places expires on December 31, 2024. If it is extended, both taxes would end on December 31, 2032. County Commissioner Anna Prizzia clarified that they wouldn’t be two separate taxes: it would be a full-cent tax, with half going to Wild Spaces Public Places and the other half going to infrastructure/housing priorities. If the full-cent tax doesn’t pass, the current half-cent tax would continue until 2024 and could be renewed on the November 2024 ballot. 

The new half-cent sales tax would give the County and the cities more flexibility in how they spend the money than Wild Spaces Public Places does. While the cities and the County would have to identify their projects up front, each entity would be able to focus the money on their specific priorities instead of spending it in a uniform way. County Commission Chair Marihelen Wheeler said the cities have been “really excited and grateful for that… We have to have roads to get to the parks… we need to make sure that the roads are accessible, too, and in good shape.” She also said that because it’s a sales tax, tourists will help “fund the infrastructure that they’re using.”

City Commissioner Adrian Hayes-Santos favored including broadband, transit, economic development, Vision Zero, and bicycle infrastructure. City Commissioner Reina Saco agreed with all of that and also favored spending some of it on improvements to fire stations. Commissioner Harvey Ward also liked the idea of spending it on fire stations, arguing that they are “public places.” Ward also said that rebuilding University Avenue and 13th Street as “Complete Streets” will require a “lot of money that we don’t have a source for at this point.”

Multiple commissioners said that the community would have a lot of influence on the final priorities for the sales tax. Research on that is being handled by The Trust for Public Land, a San Francisco organization; former Gainesville Mayor Pegeen Hanrahan is Vice President of The Trust for Public Land Action Fund and Southeast Conservation Finance Director for the Trust for Public Land. The contract between Alachua County and The Trust for Public Land will pay the organization $15,000 to produce a report on funding mechanisms for a list of programs. The programs in the contract are Wild Spaces Public Places; the new Alachua County Affordable Housing Trust Fund; County roads; a new County owned and operated broadband internet system that will provide affordable internet service to unserved and underserved areas of the County; and funding for the construction, reconstruction, or improvement of public facilities, including any related land acquisition, land improvement, design, engineering costs, and all other costs needed to bring the public facilities into service.

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County Commissioner Anna Prizzia advocated for using some of the money to fill the “empty bucket” of the County’s Affordable Housing Trust Fund, approved by voters in 2020. The county commission recently voted to put $2 million of non-recurring money into that fund. She added, “We’ll see again what the voters say, but I think they told us loud and clear they wanted that Affordable Housing Trust Fund, and we have an obligation to figure out how to fund it.” She also said it’s important to provide places for youth to have productive things to do, “and so I hope that we will really actively involve the youth in the conversation about the infrastructure and what they would like to see going on in the community as we do that outreach.”

City Commissioner Desmon Duncan-Walker said her district, District 1, has infrastructure needs, particularly to reduce speeds on some roads after a 4-year-old boy was struck and killed by a car while crossing the road: “I had a request, believe it or not, yesterday at a meeting where people were asking for speed bumps.” Duncan-Walker was also interested in funding a new cultural center.

Poe asked the Interim City Manager to talk to individual commissioners to get their thoughts and then present recommendations to the city commission at a General Policy Committee meeting in February so they can move toward a final list of projects.

  • They have gotten millions of unexpected dollars from the federal government, via the taxpayers, “thanks to Covid.” Alachua County taxpayers would have to be INSANE to agree to be taxed more for this agenda. More for housing… (Housing for who? illegal immigrants?? For median grifters who make more panhandling soft hearted and unthinking, naive city residents than they would make by taking a real job with real commitments?? People who don’t want to pay their rent, and are now quite used to not having to, with no threat of being evicted, “thanks to…Covid??”) Taxed more for “Wild Spaces” purchases of more land to go off the tax rolls?? For land that is unlikely to ever be developed in any meaningful way that we residents can actually enjoy in our lifetime???
    Oh… And more for infrastructure?? Do they mean for the ROADS that they never seem to get around to even barely MAINTAINING, much less improving??? We are supposed to trust this group to spend more of the money that Alachua County residents have worked hard to earn? These group-think commissioners are driven by Gainesville-centric elitists and a leftist globalist agenda that only offers a cursory glance at our local issues.
    Vote YES for single member districts, to get a chance at actual representation on the Board of County Commissioners!!! Vote NO to the ever-more proposed taxes that always come up with to fund their insatiable, ever-expanding “progressive” leftist agenda/appetite.

    • They should create a “ don’t be a panhandler, be a
      Canhandler” trust fund so that the panhandlers and
      People who get affordable housing can have jobs
      Cleaning up the streets of GNV & Alachua county
      Of trash & litter…if you take the public dollar, you should
      Have to give back with public service.

  • Fix the Roads. Fix your Biomess sinkhole. No more spending and whatif’s until taxes are lowered and tax payers are given relief from the reckless political agenda that has Gainesville and GRU Bankrupt and the County increasing taxes like the Brandon Administration.

  • How about no MORE taxes without representation? As long as the city is governed by authoritarian loons trying to act as woke social justice warriors instead of acting on behalf of the people they represent, all new spending should be stopped. They are not competent and should be removed.

  • No on all except consideration of single member districts. I’m still exploring that option. I believe we are already theoretically represented. Ironically, in all my discussions with the ACBC, I have had no replies from my district allocated representative. So I’m in favor of voting for one more directly.

    • Does Hanrahan get paid for being on those trust funds?
      If so and how much…what’s a San Francisco organization doing getting paid $15k to write a report for us here? We got a free report (affordable report) right
      Here in the comments section…

  • If progressive policies actually worked, they’d naturally increase revenues as a result, and taxes could be CUT, not raised. But they don’t work. Just look at the increased youth delinquency *after* we funded Reichert and Childrens Trust…All rhey does distract from real issues and the causes — and fund golden Dem parachutes.

  • Failed fiscal policies and now the city and county are coming to the taxpayers to bail them out. To put salt on the wound is they have put that shyster Pegeen Hanrahan, yes that one, the one responsible for the biomass fiasco in an official role of overseeing the disbursement should the tax be implemented. Combine that with it being partially overseen by an organization based in San Francisco, home of one of the highest taxed, highest rates of homelessness, highest costs of living,…see where this is going?

    Multiple commissioners said that the community would have a lot of influence on the final priorities for the sales tax. Really? And what voting idiot is actually to believe that? I guess the majority of liberal tax and spend HypocRats will always believe because they don’t know any better.

    I guess we’ll find out just how great a percentage of Alachua county during the 2022 election cycle are really, really stupid. These same individuals say they pay too much in taxes already.

    I guess when you’re so naive to believe in anything.

    • The “community” they trust to have say are entirely the beneficiaries (gov’t and NGO affiliates in mutual pleasure in the voting booths).

  • Affordable housing trust fund? What does affordable housing mean? Everyone wants things to be affordable, right? Affordable housing = free housing. I would give
    My 2 cents to “stop the panhandling in the median” trust
    Fund, or the “buy a bus ticket for a bum out of GNV” trust fund…

  • The 12/6 photo with this article shows they are still
    Wearing the masks…what’s the problem, they don’t
    Think the vaccine & boosters work but a paper mask
    Will? The face mask is a fascist political statement:
    Submission to control. $300k more in their bucket
    For face masks…are the masks made in communist
    China? They can at least buy masks made in the USA
    To hide their stupid faces….

    • The face mask is the commie flag…only hypochondriacs
      And liberal Marxist commies wear them…

    • this would be an absolute “slush fund” The only specific is they want 1/2 cent over decades. No constraints or even guidelines how it could be spent!
      Vote NO!

      • “The new half-cent sales tax would give the County and the cities more flexibility in how they spend the money than Wild Spaces Public Places does!” More flexibility!?!?!
        FLEXIBILITY over finances is exactly what ‘s wrong with this!
        This proposal comes the same week as the revelation GRU is facing $6.5 billion of debt to implement what this city commission envisions
        Vote NO!
        Then vote them all out! (except District 1 D D-W)
        Then maybe we can get a “roads only” (not bike-lanes & sidewalks but roads) very specific / target tax!
        How ridiculous a tax that spans everything from parks & public spaces to road repair!
        An absolute slush-fund!
        They don’t even have the tax proposal written and all these politicians are already naming their pet projects to use the money!
        Vote NO!

    • They’d still be having remote meetings via Zoom if the governor hadn’t put an end to that statewide over a year ago. That’s what they’re still doing in Portland and Seattle.

  • Why only half cent? Why not 3 or 4 cents? Then they could fund everything they want. They’re letting their utopian plans languish over a few measly pennies.

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