All roads may well lead to Rome. But when it comes to actually paying for them, roads mostly lead nowhere in Alachua County.
We pretty much know how county voters feel about approving tax initiatives for worthy causes.
Schools? Yeah. Land conservation? Certainly. Parks? Absolutely. Even health care for the working poor. Heck, once we even taxed ourselves one penny for one year to build one new county courthouse.
But roads? Not so much.
In fact, voters have rejected at least three sales tax initiatives aimed at funding road improvements. Perception tends to be reality around here when we start taking about “infrastructure.” And the perception in this county seems to be that throwing money at roads only profits developers and leads to urban sprawl.
Still, it looks like we’re going to have that debate again in 2022.
The county’s half-cent Wild Spaces and Public Places tax will expire in 2024. And no doubt, when asked, voters will agree to extend it beyond that…as they have done repeatedly in the past. Because we like conserving unspoiled lands, and we like parks.
But what if, instead of waiting until 2024, we put the issue up to for renewal on next year’s ballot? And instead of a half cent, we round it up to a full cent?
With the extra half cent going to pay for….Oh, who knows?
“Maybe infrastructure,…housing…roads…broadband…transit…whatever the cities and county desire.”
This from County Commission Chair Ken Cornell.
Of late the county commission has been holding a series of joint meetings with municipalities. The object being to see if there is sufficient interest to expand the sales tax, and, if so, to determine what the cities would like that additional half cent to pay for.
“Whatever your priorities are, those are your priorities,” Cornell told Gainesville commissioners at a joint meeting on Monday. “Is this the right time to do that?”
Not sure what kind of response the county has been getting from the other municipalities. But you could have mostly heard a pin drop when it came time for Gainesville commissioners to weigh in.
Mayor Lauren Poe wanted to know about polling to determine what voters think about expanding the sales tax for this, that and the other. “When will the polling data come back?” Poe asked. “It’s hard to talk about moving forward without that first.”
And with that the discussion pretty much ended.
Can’t really blame the city for being reluctant to jump back into bed with the county on infrastructure. During the 2012 sales tax initiative they city-county sales tax “partnership” collapsed after county commissioners, in a shocking display of bad faith, sold the city short on transit funding.
After which the voters said “Hell No!” And they said it again, just two years later.
But sure, let’s talk about it. Again. Broadband may have some appeal to it. Ditto affordable housing. I suspect transit might also get some traction.
But asphalt infrastructure? If past is prelude, that’s a road to nowhere as far as our voters are concerned.
Editor’s note: This blog has had a correction added since its original posting. As originally written it indicated that the city-county falling out over transit funding occurred during the 2014 sales tax referendum. It actually occurred during the 2012 vote.