Letter: Vote NO on infrastructure sales tax

The Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) is pushing a new one-cent surtax, which will appear on the November 8 ballot. The tax, dubbed an “Infrastructure” tax, is expected to net $49,114,715 the first year (more in subsequent years), split between the County and the county’s municipalities.  

The supporters of this new tax are trying to distract you by asserting that sales taxes, unlike property taxes, are paid largely by visitors to Alachua County, and those nasty no-good visitors should pay for the wear and tear on our roads. Somehow, we are supposed to buy this and vote for the new tax.    

The County commissioned a study from The Trust for Public Land that claims that only 23% of the surtax would be paid by local residents and that each household would only spend an additional $57 per year over the current half-cent Wild Spaces Public Places surtax. The report does not give any details about the assumptions used to generate these estimates, but it does note that the remaining revenues “would come from visitor and business spending.” When businesses pay more sales tax, they pass those costs on to their customers—i.e., local residents. In short, this $57 estimate likely underestimates the cost to local residents of the increased surtax.

Where does the “Infrastructure” name even come from? 50% of this proposed new tax will go toward one thing: renewing the Wild Spaces Public Places (WSPP) tax. The other 50% goes toward three things: firehouses, affordable housing, and roads. The BOCC has promised to spend 70% of their portion (which is about 61% of the annual revenue) on roads and 30% on affordable housing. I guess the firehouses will have to be built by the municipalities with their share. 

Here’s some math for you: Given that the “infrastructure” part is half the surtax and the County will get 61% of that, the percentage of the surtax that will be spent on roads is 0.5 x 0.61 x 0.7 = 21%. 

How much is needed for roads? In a joint meeting between the Newberry City Commission and the BOCC early this year, the County Road Department Director spoke. He said he needs about $40M per year for roads, just to get the roads up to par! The County’s 2022 budget for roads was $4M. That is 1/10th of the need. The 2023 County budget allocates about $8M for roads. 

IF this new “infrastructure” tax passes and IF the BOCC follows through on its promise to spend 70% of its share on roads, that gets the annual road funding to about $18M, less than half of the $40M needed. Our roads will still get worse each year. The added tax revenue is a drop in the bucket, or I should say “drop in the pothole”. Plus, do we trust the BOCC to add that $9.8M to the budgeted $8M of general funds for roads, or will they divert the $8M to other pet projects?

Although this tax will expire in 10 years, you know they will try to renew it and possibly increase it.

The BOCC has expanded its social programs for many years, diverting general fund revenue to feel-good programs instead of focusing first on basic local government responsibilities like roads, law enforcement, and fire departments. Surtaxes for roads have failed multiple times because of distrust from the voters, but the BOCC is hoping that the popularity of Wild Spaces Public Places will drag the infrastructure surtax across the finish line. (If you like Wild Spaces Public Places, you should know that if this ballot measure fails, WSPP will continue as it is for 2 more years and then be placed on the 2024 ballot for renewal.)

Until the county commissioners are willing to tighten their belt, I’m sure not going to tighten mine… or ask you to tighten yours! Vote NO on the new infrastructure sales tax on November 8th.

Tim Marden, Newberry City Commissioner

The opinions expressed by letter or opinion writers are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of AlachuaChronicle.com. Letters may be submitted to info@alachuachronicle.com and are published at the discretion of the editor.

  • I always love how the regressives argue “it’s only $57 more per year per citizen.” And by love, I mean I hate it with a passion! How about this BOCC- you take $57 per citizen out of your social(ist) programs and put that money into the roads? I mean, it’s only an extra $57 per citizen, right? The citizens have given it in the past, now it’s your turn. It’s called equity.

  • Sweet Lordy Jesus! Did I just read a local politician advocate for lower taxes and smaller government? Have I died? Is this heaven? God bless you Tim Marden!

  • Remove the Wild Spaces and Affordable Housing components and you’ll have my vote. I’m all for a consumption tax, quit hitting the property owners.

  • Completely agree with Mr. Marden.
    No creditably has been demonstrated by BOCC regarding past taxes and roads. Unless every penny goes for fixing the roads in our County, I will never vote for it.
    I’m tired of money being stripped out of these proposals for pet Gainesville Social programs. In this particular one they want 30% for affordable housing etc.
    All for roads, no more find the peanut under the cup games they love to play.

  • Great letter Tim! I hope this gets published in the Gainesville fish wrapper as unfortunately the only people who show up to vote are the liberal blue hairs who only get their misguided news from the Sun.

  • Agree 100%!!! The Group of Four on the AC BOCC has NO intention of spending any money on road repair or adding capacity, adding fire/first responder stations, and law enforcement offices, to what will soon be gravel roads throughout the county. They purchased themselves a new smoke machine and are blowing smoke up taxpayers/voters fourth point of contact!

    NO new taxes, learn how to budget and realign resources where they will do the most good for the majority of the county residents!

  • No money for affordable housing! It is not a proper government function to seize my money and buy somebody else a house!! Buy me a car then!

  • Nonpartisan: If we don’t want this additional tax, we need to be informing other potential voters in Alachua County now! 31 days until the vote is counted and believe me, the AC BOCC Group of 4 has been busy drumming up support for their new cash cow! If Independent voters don’t get out and vote in bigger numbers than they did for the AC School Board elections, along with Republicans, this sales tax will pass hands down. Same thing with the Single Member District! Get people registered and voting!

  • Just another liberal bucket of your dollars to be spent basically as they please instead of just making roads a budget priority out of regular tax dollars. They’ve wasted tens of millions on liberal boondoggles and very stupid ideas. This is a never ending tax no matter what anyone says, it will be renewed over and over. PS Government shouldn’t buy permanent houses for anyone. A few TEMPORARY places for transition only. Buy your own or find a relative to like with or go off the grid in a tent.

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