Recommendation In Limbo For Fall Vote For Tax Hike
Ron Hurtibise Staff Writer June 2, 1998; Page 06C
DELAND -- A citizens' committee formed to study public feelings on a penny sales tax hike hasn't met in 2 1/2 months, and leader Ed Dunn says it won't issue a recommendation in time for the County Council to schedule a fall referendum.
Council Chairman Stan Rosevear, meanwhile, met with Dunn last week but had no comment Monday on whether he would recommend the council schedule a referendum anyway. Rosevear, who was blasted by city leaders after calling for a vote, said he would discuss the issue with the council June 11. State elections laws require the council to decide on a fall referendum by July 23. The county estimates that an extra penny in the state sales tax would generate $39 million more a year. Half would go to the county; the cities would split the other half.
Most council members have repeatedly said they won't consider scheduling a tax-hike vote unless the community asks for one.
Dunn, a Daytona Beach attorney and former state legislator, acknowledged that he lagged in reconvening the study committee after its last meeting March 15.
``It was largely my fault,'' he said, adding, ``it was not really intentional.'' He said the committee is in no way dead and soon plans to work closely with the Volusia Visions organization to conduct public forums on the local-option sales tax with community groups.
The committee's study should be done by December, he said.
As outlined in January, the Dunn-led committee was expected to talk to cities' leaders and residents to develop a list of desired community improvement projects.
The group would look at various ways to fund the projects and support a tax increase only if necessary. Elected bodies of seven cities quickly denounced the proposed referendum. Six passed resolutions opposing it.
Tax-study committee members said Friday that they haven't been contacted by Dunn or asked to do work outlined during the committee's most recent meeting in March. ``I guess it's on hold,'' said Dottie Lewis, who runs a public relations firm in South Daytona. Lewis volunteered her firm to poll residents and conduct focus groups on the question.
Other committee members who said they have not been contacted by Dunn since March 15 include former Orange City Mayor Herb Sever; Daytona Beach attorney Doug Daniels; Orange City-based Realtor Alice Cycler and Mike Jiloty, president of Jiloty Communications Inc., a Daytona Beach advertising and public relations agency.
Maintaining he did not purposely delay the group's work, Dunn said the reactions to Rosevear's proposal indicated that fall would be a bad time for a vote.
``We've heard that a lot of people think everything is economically wonderful and are not interested in looking into the future to see what sacrifices one needs to make today,'' he said.
Committee member Daniels said Friday the only way residents would be willing to consider a sales-tax hike is if the projects were strictly tied to attracting more and better-paying jobs.
``Volusia County is on the bottom of every (economic) category in Central Florida,'' he said. ``To get off the bottom, we're going to need to build some infrastructure.''
Such needs include water and sewer lines and new roads in southeast Volusia; beach improvements on the east side; utilities at Deltona-area commercial sites; and in West Volusia, road improvements and a parking garage for the planned West Volusia Justice Center, Daniels said.
The $44 million justice center in downtown DeLand heads the county's list of unfunded projects. Rosevear estimates that the cost to taxpayers for the justice center could reach $75 million if financed by a 30-year bond issue.
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