Voters say no to sales tax

Outcome of special election and low turnout no surprise.

election
FILE PHOTO
The half-cent sales tax was expected to help alleviate flooding in streets like this one in Daytona Beach’s Black community.

BY ANDREAS BUTLER
DAYTONA TIMES

Registered voters across Volusia County said no to a countywide half-cent sales tax that would have raised money for capital improvement projects such as roads, sidewalks, bridges, and stormwater projects.

The mail-in ballots for the special election were tallied up on Tuesday night with 55 percent of ballots against the tax and 45 percent in favor of it.

Of the nearly 400,000 registered voters in the county, about 105,000 ballots were cast. That’s 28 percent of the electorate. Volusia’s sales tax will remain at 6.5 percent.

First of its kind

Ballots were mailed out by the Supervisor of Elections Office on May 1 and were to be returned and postdated no later than May 21 at 7 p.m. The mail-in election was the first of its kind in Volusia County.

The countywide tax was estimated to bring in $42 million per year to the county to be divided out to its 16 municipalities. It was estimated to bring $3.7 million per year for Daytona Beach and over $74 million during a 20-year span.

Reed disappointed

In Daytona Beach, the half-cent sales tax could have provided $46.4 million to improve existing streets; $12.9 million for new sidewalks and $15 million to improve flood-prone areas.

“I am quite disappointed in the rejection of the tax. There is so much work to be done in our city. Daytona certainly has its share of needs with flood control, roads, sidewalks, etc., said Daytona Beach Commissioner Paula Reed.

LEWIS ON BALLOTS

Election officials had no major issues with the process.

“If there was an issue, I would say it was the updating of voter registration. And what I mean is when a voter moves, we do not always get an address update,” Volusia County Supervisor of Elections Lisa Lewis explained.

“Therefore, when we mailed the ballot, it went to the address we have on file. Ballots do not forward and are returned to us as undeliverable.’’

The low turnout was kind of expected.

“I was hoping for more of a 40- to 50-percent turnout. I think for the first time conducting an all-mail ballot election went smooth. Turnout was almost as high as the primary in 2018, which was around 29 percent,” noted Lewis.

SOME FACTORS

Volusia County/Daytona Beach NAACP President Cynthia Slater is not surprised with the low turnout.

“I didn’t think it would pass for several reasons such as people getting the information late and not having it explained where they could study it. There is also a mistrust of government. These factors also affected turnout,” Slater explained.

“Turnout is low in general elections so a mail-in ballot is equally tough. Mail is often tossed away as well. Still, we need to do better.’’

Across party lines, those who voted include more than 46,000 Republicans, more than 34,000 Democrats and more than 23,000 registered in other party affiliations.

LOOKING AHEAD

Money raised by the tax was intended to be spent in the municipality where it was raised.

The City of Daytona Beach wanted to spend 62 percent of funds raised by the tax on roads, 20 percent on flood control and 17 percent on sidewalks.

Now the county and other cities must find other ways to add much-needed revenue for capital improvement projects.

“We will now have to divert funds from other areas and create our own sustainable plan to address the issue. I’d like to see it on the ballot in 2020 giving us more time to appeal to the citizens,” Reed said.

“Some site-increasing impact fees, less incentives and better planning, but I’m not certain what we can do that will have such an influence on our needs as the sales tax increase would have had,’’ she added.

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