Penny Sales Tax Ordinance Written Wrong
and Includes Pet Projects Such as
6 Pickleball Courts
Is this really a priority for Lake County?
In last week’s Right Side of the Lake, we laid out a very detailed summary of why the voters of Lake County should Vote No on the renewal of the Penny Sales Tax on November 3, 2015. Beginning this week, we start examining the facts closely.
First, let’s look at how the referendum was written by the Lake County Board of County Commissioners, and how it will look on the ballot.
INFRASTRUCTURE SALES SURTAX REFERENDUM
SHOULD LAKE COUNTY ORDINANCE 2015-___ EXTENDING THE EXISTING
ONE-CENT COUNTYWIDE INFRASTRUCTURE SALES SURTAX FOR FIFTEEN YEARS
PROJECTS ELIGIBLE FOR FUNDING:
Law Enforcement Vehicles, Fire Trucks and Ambulances, and Public Safety Equipment
Parks, Trails, Recreation, and Libraries
Construction/Reconstruction/Remodeling of School Facilities
Roads, Sidewalks, and Transportation
Water Quality, Utilities, and Drainage Improvements
Other Public Infrastructure
____ FOR the 1-CENT Sales Tax
____ AGAINST the 1-CENT Sales Tax
When the tax was first approved, it had very narrow guidelines as to what the money could be spent on. The tax was never instituted as a general fund tax, which this ordinance would authorize. Essentially, if approved, Lake County voters would be giving Lake County Commission Chairman Jimmy Conner, the Lake County School District, and the local cities a blank check in the amount of $783 million.
Next, it appears the way this ordinance is written it could probably be challenged legally. On May 30, 2012, Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi wrote an Advisory Legal Opinion on infrastructure surtax in a City of Flagler Beach Referendum.
The Attorney General said the following in the advisory:
To read the ballot language providing for funding “public projects and improvements” without the qualifying language following it on the ballot would appear to present so broad a categorization as to deny the voters any genuine notice of what might be funded by the bond referendum. That is, to read the ballot language “public projects and improvements” without limitations expressed in the “such as” clause would effectively authorize expenditures for a wide variety of projects without providing the voters with a reasonable idea of what these projects might be.
So, when the Lake County Board of County Commissioners put language in the ordinance and on the ballot that states, “PROJECTS ELIGIBLE FOR FUNDING” and the last project listed is “Other Public Infrastructure” and they do not include a “such as” clause detailing the projects, then the voters are not being given a reasonable understanding or expectation of the projects being funded by the Penny Sales Tax.
The line “Other Public Infrastructure” was probably added to include all of the things that would make the voters mad and give the politicians a blank check with the taxpayers’ money. Bottom line, we believe this ordinance is not properly written and needs to be reviewed and changed.
Lake County government has a mile-long list of potential uses for the Penny Sales Tax on their website, and Lake County should be required to list every item on the ballot for full disclosure. The reason they do not want to do this is because they know many tax payers would rebel at all of the pet projects, especially after paying 13.8% more in property taxes last year.
Plus, why are they calling it an “Infrastructure Surtax”? Government infrastructure is generally considered roads, power plants, utilities, and construction base projects—not the majority of the items they have listed, which include pickle ball courts, park paths, and site clearing. Put everything on the ballot!
On November 3, 2015, Vote No on the Penny Sales Tax, because the Infrastructure Sales Surtax Referendum is badly written, and you don’t want to give the politicians a blank check. Let’s make them do it right—the ordinance should only be used for new schools, roads, and utilities while protecting Lake County taxpayers and workers.
If you would like someone to come and speak
to your group about the Penny Sales Tax
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