Sales Tax Campaign Launching in Manatee



A group of Manatee community leaders today will launch a campaign in favor of two new sales taxes to fund schools, roads and other needs in the region. But the message won’t necessarilly be an easy sell in a county where taxes have been shot down by voters in recent history and opposition is already mounting. 

Voters on November 8 will decide whether to extend a half-penny sales tax for local schools that expires in 2017 and on whether to assess another half-penny tax to fund infrastructure improvements in Manatee County. The issues will appear as Measures 6 and 7 on the general election ballot.

For Mac Carraway, spokesman for the pro-tax group Forward Manatee, the referenda make sense. “We think they are synergistic as far as both will have an effect, if passed, on the quality of life in Manatee County,” he says. Carraway, owner of Carraway Consulting Group, chaired the Manatee County Financial Structure Advisory Board that recommended the county infrastructure tax, a direction only made after careful deliberation. There will also be citizen oversight on how the county commission and school district spend the money.

The money raised by the school tax would go toward improving or expanding school facilities, while the county tax will primarily be spent on addressing road and transportation needs, both issues broad and long-lasting benefits. “This will benefit everybody who gets in a car or who has a child in school,” Caraway says, “or who is interested in employing an educated workforce.” And best of all, he says, a third of the revenue raised through a sales tax would come from tourists and other out-of-town visitors to the region, a group that enjoys the roads and other infrastructure but doesn’t contribute to property taxes.

But taxes sometimes prove a hard sell in conservative Manatee County, where voters in 2014 shot down a sales tax that would finance an indigent health care fund. Linda Neely, who runs the website and a related Facebook page, doesn’t think the district or county government need the funding or that the leadership will be responsible in its spending. Angry at school district decisions like a vote this year to shut down Orange Ridge-Bullock Elementary, then voting just this week to let Rowlett Academy for Arts and Sciences to move ahead with a plan for new use of the site, Neely feels leaders are squandering resources as it is and don’t need more. “We are running back to the days when the superintendent covered up all the financial havoc,” Neely says, referring to financial problems that heralded former superintendent Tim McGonegal’s resignation in 2012. Noting the state already budgeted more for school districts this year, Neely doesn’t believe a fresh tax hike is in order, and while the school tax would be a continuation of a tax set to sunset, she says voters should treat both votes on the ballot as new taxes on the citizenry. 

Neely, also executive secretary of Tea Party Manatee, says plenty of concern about the spending habits of county and school officials should concern voters. Carraway, though, expects business leaders and concerned citizens will rally in favor of a tax with revenues that boost the community as a whole. Forward Manatee holds its kickoff at the Manatee County Chamber of Commerce with an event today at 5:30pm.

« View The Thursday Sep 15, 2016 SRQ Daily Edition
« Back To SRQ Daily Archive

Other Articles in Politics

Feb 15, 2018Jacob Ogles

Dems See Victory as Rebuke of Vouchers

Feb 14, 2018Jacob Ogles

Democrat Good Wins District 72 Election