With a vote by the public less than 90 days away, Seminole County commissioners met with their school board counterparts on Tuesday to come up with an interlocal agreement on how to split a one-penny sales tax, but neither organization has a final list.
The county has put together a preliminary list of the projects that they want with the estimated $630 million of revenue over 10 years.
CLICK HERE TO SEE THE LIST OF PROJECTS (PDF)
The Seminole County School Board has no formal list yet but says items will come from an existing capital needs list. School Superintendent Walt Griffin also announced that, if voters approve a penny sales tax on May 20, he will ask for a property tax cut.
"My recommendation to the school board will be, if the sales tax passes, that we reduce the millage proportionately to the sales tax and cover the capital expenses."
Voters approved new taxes for the Seminole County School District just two years ago and raised it the maximum amount allowed by voters. The tax gives schools an extra $25 million per year. The proposed penny increase would add $15 million, but School Board Member Karen Almond warned the public not to expect a full tax cut on what was levied just two years ago.
"Part of the needs are not capital, which cannot be addressed with the sales tax. Part of our needs were for arts, and athletics and academics."
The district stands to get 25 percent of the money. The penny proposed could only be used for capital improvements. Superintendent Griffin says the plan would be to fix air conditioners and roofs with the money. About a half-dozen speakers showed up to talk to commissioners and school board members, and Billy Hyde wasn't buying the offer to reduce property taxes.
"We've heard this from government before. No government ever gives tax money back," he said.
Commissioner Brenda Carey knows the full list of projects is weeks away. She wants information thoughout the county's website as soon as possible to pitch the tax to voters.
"One mill of property tax is 25 million, and one penny of sales tax is 63 million. I mean, that's a big difference. Thirty-three percent of the people that will pay the penny don't even live here. So I mean, that's all information, in addition to this list, that needs to be out there for the public."
Seminole Chairman Bob Dalai agrees, hoping to have information readily available sooner rather than later.
"What I want is for the community to be educated on what it is and what it isn't. I want the community to decide if they want the penny sales tax or not."
Former Seminole Commissioner Grant Maloy was surprised when he looked at the preliminary list. He wonders why things like repaving roads and stormwater projects are included.
"These are things that county governments should be doing on its own. Re paving roads, taking care of drainage. To offload those into a sales tax, like they're planning on doing, just allows them to waste more money in the General Fund."
Maloy also railed against $2 million to upgrade the Altamonte SunRail station, and things like expanding Riverwalk in Sanford.
"It's nice to have bells and whistles, and landscaping, and the sort of things they want to do with this money, but the bottom line is, we don't need to be raising taxes in this bad economy."
The county should get about 34 percent of the estimated $63 million the tax would raise each year. The cities in Seminole County will also receive some of the tax revenue.