TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Residents discussed the Penny Sales Tax and future projects for improving the community Tuesday at a town hall meeting in Lively Café.
The café was located inside of St. John’s Episcopal Church, where displays were placed around the room to showcase the projects. The theme of the night was “your penny, your project”, and residents hoped to understand what the Penny Sales Tax was, and how it will affect their area of the community.
“I expected to see what projects they had planned to use the Penny Sales Tax for. I’m just curious to see if the south side was going to actually get some projects, and if they are going to have priority as well,” said Jonathan Peterson, a local resident and member of Oakridge Place Homeowners Association. “There are a lot of areas on the south side that needs improvements and upgrades.”
The Penny Sales Tax started in 1989, and it is used to pay for projects that help “widen roads, relieve traffic congestion, and address public safety needs,” said Cristina Paredes, the City of Tallahassee’s special projects coordinator.
When projects were going through the approval process, Paredes said everyone within the meetings kept the entire community in mind.
“Among developing the list of projects, the sales tax committee and the county and city commission recognized how important the geographical diversity of the projects is to the community. The project covers almost the entire county,” Paredes said.
Wayne Tedder, director of the City of Tallahassee’s PLACE, said after the city has established a budget for the year. The plan includes projects to improve certain aspects of the city that were submitted by residents and approved by the county and city commissioners.
Tedder said that he had never seen so much involvement from the community until this year.
“The difference between the current sales tax that we have right now and the one that is being extended is the amount of citizen involvement. I can honestly say that there has never been as part of the original sales tax, the current blueprint sales tax, the amount of citizen participation to develop the list of projects for our community,” said Tedder.
If the sales tax extension is approved, the new plan along with a new budget will be implemented next year. Some residents like Peter Butzin, a retired state chair of Common Cause, did not participate in selecting the projects because they were not sure if they agreed with the sales tax.
Butzin said that he hoped to decide if he was going to vote for or against the tax extension by the end of the meeting.
“I am undecided on the issue, so I wanted to be educated. I also wanted to bring my wife along, but she had another function. She wanted me to take good notes, although she tends to be more in favor of it than I am,” Butzin said.
If the extension is not approved, Tedder said the “current sales tax is obligated to accomplish and fund two more main projects.”
The continuation of Cascades trail that will extend FAMU way to connect to Lake Bradford and Gamble Street to Lake Henrietta will be the two projects.
Residents will have the opportunity to vote to extend the sales tax in November.