I’ve been active in county government for 20 years, long enough to see the problems and to understand the possibilities, long enough to know when the county should lead and when it should get out of the way. I want to put my experience to work.
We have most of the ingredients for success: universities, a great educational system, and unspoiled natural beauty. But economic development requires unity; our divisions have been our downfall, and we can fix that.
Tax rates need to be lowered. The county has cut spending, reducing its staff by 500 employees, but more cuts will be necessary. Making them will require experience and sound judgment.
When I get on the County Council, I will:
Team Volusia needs to become a strong, predominately private economic development organization, one that shows we are serious, that we are ready to grow beyond our tourism roots. It should work closely with the CEO Cabinet, an organization of business leaders volunteering their time and their corporate jets to recruit industry. The county needs to greet quality business prospects with open arms, offering incentives and leaving the red tape behind.
Rebuilding our tourist industry is a critical part of any county economic development plan. Its image, for good or ill, affects us all. The county should encourage beachside redevelopment, thereby justifying the county’s Ocean Center investment and showing high wage businesses prospects that we not only see the future, we can reach it.
We need the type of economic development that creates wealth, while preserving one of our greatest assets, Volusia County’s natural beauty.
We need to stop the St Johns River Water Management from selling any environmentally sensitive lands in Volusia County. The providers of high wage, high tech jobs can move their businesses anywhere. The county’s – indeed the state’s – natural beauty is the reason most of us moved here, and it is the reason, along with our educational institutions, that we can realistically expect to attract such businesses here.
Further selling lands in our water recharge area will only ensure higher water rates in the future. With high taxes and high insurance rates, homeowners can’t take any more.
Our property tax rates are among the highest in the state, but the property taxes we pay per capita are about average. The reason is our poor economy, one of the poorest of any urban county in the state.
Until we turn our economy around, we need to be the laboratory of efficient government, trying new things, using technology to reduce cost much as private industry has.
Economic development, not raising taxes, is the long term answer to our budget problems. Our tax millage rate is too high already, largely because our property values are low, a result of our poor economy, something we can fix.