More Expensive Christmas Shopping in the Future?
By Dan Breitwieser, WCJB TV 20 News.
Community and business leaders heard a presentation Friday that may put the wheels in motion to increase the sales tax 1%, to 7.25%.
Proponents are pitching it as a quality of life tax. Leon County and Tallahassee voters passed a similar hike almost a decade ago and the program director there says it's paying big dividends. Money is split between interest groups to keep everyone happy. Now, Alachua County leaders is wondering if it is a model worth imitating.
The lights may be green, but no one is going anywhere on Newberry Road during the evening rush hour. Traffic is even worse than usual with the Christmas shopping rush. Though all the extra shoppers may help government leaders cash in in the future.
"We need a better road network, more roads perhaps," says President and CEO of the Gainesville Area Chamber of Commerce Brent Christensen. "I think we need more recreation and park opportunities, more opportunities for land conservation"
Jim Davis directs the sales tax money in Leon County through a program called Blueprint 2000 that is expected to generate $600-million over 15 years. The Gainesville Area Chamber of Commerce brought Davis in to explain how it works in Leon County.
"It's a program that by design has something for everyone," says Davis. "Certainly the environmental community is a big supporter of the program, as is the business community. We are doing things for everyone."
It's the first time Robert Packer at Renaissance Jewelers has heard anything about a sales tax increase. He doesn't think the hike would affect his business that much. But he would only be in favor of it he knows in advance what he's getting for his money.
"I don't think the penny will make that big of a difference in our business," says Packer. "But I think people will gladly pay the money if the projects are clearly defined and completed in a timely manner."
Christensen says today could be the first step in a very long road toward bringing a sales tax increase to Alachua County. He estimates it would bring in between 30 and 40 million dollars yearly. At this point, no projects have been put forward. He thinks a vote could happen as early as the 2008 election, or perhaps in 2010.
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