Cuts Gainesville Transit InitiativeALACHUA – In a narrow 3-2 vote Tuesday, Alachua County Commissioners decided to move forward with a ¾ cent sales tax initiative that, if approved by voters in the fall, would fund roadway improvements. Not making the cut, however, was a ¼ cent ballot initiative that would have funded transit projects in the City of Gainesville, including a bus rapid transit (BRT) system.
The vote came one day after the County Commission’s joint meeting with the Alachua City Commission, at which city commissioners and Alachua citizens expressed views on the proposed sales taxes.
At Monday’s joint meeting, Alachua County Commissioner Ben Boukari noted briefly that the ¼ cent transit tax would be paid for by the entire county but benefit only Gainesville, while Gainesville would also benefit from the ¾ cent tax for road improvement.
County Commissioner Mike Byerly countered by saying individual cities that have been allotted transportation tax money should be trusted to correctly use that money.
“We should stay on the course where we let cities – including the City of Gainesville, including the City of Alachua – decide, ‘What are [our] priorities,” Byerly said.
Commissioners from both the city and county stated the importance of clear language in the balloting of the proposed taxes, which will go to voters in November. The county set a tentative date of July 10 for final approval of the language of the ballot.
The surtax was initially discussed last year, when the County Commission proposed a one-cent sales tax to fund transportation projects, asking individual cities of Alachua County to submit plans for projects they would fund with their share of the tax revenue.
The City of Alachua submitted a list of plans that included road and sidewalk improvements. The City of Gainesville was the only city to submit transit plans in addition to road improvement plans.
The ¾ cent tax ballot approved Tuesday included provisions for sidewalk improvement which initially had been excluded from a proposal approved by the county commission May 22.
Lee Pinkoson, Winston Bradley and Susan Baird, the three county commissioners who voted to remove the ¼ cent tax for transit, said Gainesville’s proposed plan for the money was unclear. Additionally, they said the city’s proposed BRT system was unnecessary.
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