In 2004, county residents said yes to a one-penny county sales tax. Part of the goal was to lower property taxes as housing values here started to wash into the Gulf of Mexico, and the school district agreed to lower its take from local taxes. That penny tax is up for renewal in November’s election. This time backers of the Penny for Pasco tax are saying it could help hold the line on property tax increases, but that’s just a hope — there is no agreement for any lowering or freezing of other taxes.
I haven’t seen any polling on this local issue, but there’s a lot of support for the tax. Partly that’s because people can see exactly what they’re getting — and what they wouldn’t have if taxes remain lower. The tax, since 2004, has bought ambulances, park trails, road improvements, new schools and renovation of old schools, and land for environmental preservation. The extension of the tax would buy sheriff’s cruisers, new fire trucks, buses and bus shelters, renovation of fire stations, more school improvements, a countywide public safety communications system, and economic development efforts, among many other things.
Renewing the penny tax would generate $500 million over ten years, split among the county and school district, 45% each, with the remaining 10 percent going to the cities in the county. The money is to be spent on capital purchases and improvements, not operations.
A household with the county’s median income of $44,000 would spend about $108 each year through the penny tax.
When you see what your money gets you, it’s harder to buy a simplistic statement that taxes are bad, and we should have no new taxes.
I keep wanting President Obama to say that, if the Romney Ryan tax cuts go into effect, there will have to be huge cuts not just in Medicare and Pell grants, but in every single thing that people depend on in their daily lives. There will be fewer cops, fewer schools with bigger classes, fewer firefighters with fewer and worn-out trucks, fewer people to staff libraries and the functions of government people need, like getting drivers licenses. Huge federal cuts mean less money at the state level, and that means less money at the local level. Romney’s not being honest about what the RyanRomney budget would mean. When people see what their tax money provides, they realize that they can’t get something for nothing.
The Penny for Pasco is about “making life better in Pasco County,” backers say. “No new taxes” is just a politician’s glib slogan. The truth, in our lives, is about cops and libraries and schools and roads and sewers and safety and a government that can answer your emergency call.
You can’t cut without pain, no matter what some slick hustler tells you.
We’ll see what the voters of Pasco County decide on Nov. 6. I’m voting to raise my own taxes. Cuz I want more than a fire department that comes to my house on a bike with a bucket.
— Bruce Benidt