October 16, 2016
Shortly, the Economic Council and others will be spending over $200,000 to convince you that the county sales tax should be raised to 7%. You will hear that the infrastructure is crumbling, that the children are sweating in their classrooms with broken air conditioners, that the roads have potholes and the bridges are falling down. You will hear that a sales tax is good because 25% of it will come from tourists, and that tens of thousands of jobs will be created to rebuild those roads and bridges, county buildings, the jail and the parks.
Don’t be fooled. This 17% increase in the sales tax will generate much more revenue than is arguably needed to repair the infrastructure that was neglected by conscious choices of county staff and commission. Over the last 5 years, the ad-valorem budget has grown 33%, yet Engineering and Public Works only saw a 3% growth. At the same time, the Sheriff’s budget grew by 28% and county employees saw 12% in across the board raises (3% / year for 4 years). These conscious choices indicate that those running our county and school system were willing to defer maintenance until a pitch could be made for a new source of revenue.
A bond issue could have funded the critical needs. Instead, they want a sales tax that will generate $2.7B over 10 years whether it is needed or not. Do not doubt that they will spend every penny.
1. A 17% increase in the sales tax is a net tax increase of $270M per year, with no offsets to property taxes.
2. It is regressive and will affect low income residents the hardest.
3. It is not subject to the scrutiny applied to the annual ad-valorem budget.
4. It creates an incentive to purchase outside the county (Both Broward and Martin are at 6%, many internet retailers do not collect sales tax).
5. It is not an “infrastructure maintenance tax” but includes many new capital projects.
6. Unlike an infrastructure bond that would raise just enough money for critical needs, this granular tax generates a specific amount of money, and low priority projects will have to be funded in order to spend it all. Like previous proposals, it is a grab-bag of projects, many of which would never be done without a “must spend” windfall.
7. Charter schools get nothing.
8. Many of the municipalities (PBG, Boca) didn’t want the money.
9. It comes on top of the largest ad-valorem tax haul at the county level in history, up 8.2% over last year and up 33% since 2012. If passed, the 2017 equivalent tax hike would be 18%.
10. Over the last 5 years, the county has consistently underfunded engineering and public works (+3%), while increasing the Sheriff’s budget by 28% and giving across the board raises to employees of 12% (3%/year for 4 years). When the overall ad-valorem budget increased by 33%, engineering saw a total of 3% in 5 years. This was a conscious choice.
Don’t be an enabler!