BY ANDREAS BUTLER
Residents in Daytona’s Black community got one last spiel on a proposed countywide half-cent sales tax.
The Daytona Beach Black Clergy Alliance hosted a meeting on Monday where city officials explained the tax to the public at Allen Chapel A.M.E. Church.
The tax is designed to raise revenue for capital improvement projects, including roads, bridges, sidewalks, stormwater projects, etc. The Supervisor of Elections Office mailed out the ballot for the special election on May 1.
Registered votes are to fill out the ballot in favor of or against; sign it and mail back to the elections office no later than May 21 at 7 p.m.
Ballots can be dropped off at any city or town hall across the county and the Supervisor of Elections Office. Voters can have someone drop off ballots for them. If a registered voter did not receive a ballot in the mail, the voter can pick it up from the elections office. Only the registered voter is authorized to pick it up.
Residents like Posey Jackson, who attended Monday’s session, feel more informed and ready to make their decision.
“It was a very interesting and very informative meeting. I am curious because they have been taking taxes for years but fixing up other areas. I found out a few things, which is it’s a countywide tax not just citywide. I also found out that ballots could be picked up if you didn’t get one, which may help my sister who has Alzheimer’s. This meeting has helped me make up my mind,’’ Jackson noted.
Getting the word out
The Rev. Victor Gooden, president of the Black Clergy Alliance and pastor of New Life Church Ministries, believes Monday’s event served its purpose.
“We procedurally speaking did what we set out to do. The crowd wasn’t as good as we’d like. The clergy will work with the NAACP to get the word out. We will make phone calls, announcements and help people get and drop off ballots,” he said.
“It’s important that people express their opinion. We can’t tell them how to vote, but we just want to make sure they vote.’’
City officials at the meeting did their best to answer residents’ concerns. Questions ranged from flooding to how streets will be chosen for improvements.
“We have a lot of flooding issues. During the heavy rainstorms back in 2008-2009, we went in and looked at the pipes. Many were clay and some were wood, which was common construction back in the ’60s,’’ responded Hardy Smith, Daytona Beach’s Government Relations administrator.
“As for the roads that we graded, we used a Public Works study from a few years back. No road projects are approved yet but the scale helps make them eligible.’’
Residents also want local minorities to be able to find employment as workers, contractors and business owners on these projects.
“My wish is that minority contractors, especially African Americans get jobs as a result of these projects,’ commented Pastor Derrick Harris of Master’s Domain Church of God in Christ and owner of Cut Master’s Barbershop.
Daytona Beach Zone 5 City Commissioner Danette Henry responded, “This is a big conversation within the city commission to hire minority contractors. We are looking at our procedures.”
She added, “We have some in place that we must look over. The Mayor (Derrick Henry), Commissioners (Quanita) May, Reed (Paula) and myself are committed to doing so. We will hold ourselves and city staff accountable.”
Money raised by the tax will be spent in the municipality where it’s raised.
The tax will not apply to purchases of gas, groceries or medicine.
The half-cent sales is estimated to bring in $45 million per year countywide.
In Daytona Beach, the tax is estimated to bring $3.7 million per year and over $74 million over 20 years.
The sales tax could give Daytona Beach $46.4 million to improve existing streets; $12.9 million for new sidewalks and $15 million to improve flood-prone areas.
The city plans to spend 62 percent of funds raised by the tax on roads, 20 percent on flood control and 17 percent on sidewalks.
Road improvements could net the following: Zone 1 (28 miles of roads at over $6.9 million); Zone 2 (32 miles at over $8.2 million); Zone 3: (27 miles at $8.1 million); Zone 4 (31 miles at over $8.7 million); Zone 5 (24 miles at over $6.5 million); Zone 6 (27 miles at over $7.7 million).