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Sunday, September 19, 2021

A new sales tax referendum is creating a rift between the city and county commissions.

The controversial initiative aims to fund only public road projects in Alachua County if the county commission decides to put it on the ballot in November.

The issue stems from the county commission’s decision to kill a sales tax referendum for Gainesville’s Regional Transit System during a meeting on May 22.

In January, the county proposed a 1-cent sales tax referendum to fund transportation projects to nine Alachua county cities if approved by voters in November.

The county commission requested all nine cities submit transportation projects that could be funded by the proposal. The city commission proposed new bus projects, which includes improved bus stops and replacement buses.

On March 29, the county commission voted 3-2 to split the transportation tax into two different referendums: a 3/4-cent sales tax to fund road projects and a 1/4-cent sales tax to fund Gainesville’s public transportation projects.

Under the new plan, the city would receive about 24.4 percent of the $22.5 million raised annually from the 3/4-cent tax and a projected $82.5 million over the next 15 years.

The 1/4-cent tax would generate approximately $7.5 million annually and a projected $112.5 million over the same time period.

On May 14, the city commission voted 6-1 to approve interlocal agreements with the county for the roads and transit sales tax initiatives.

During a county commission meeting on May 22, commissioners voted 3-2 to kill the 1/4-cent transit tax and considered moving the 3/4-cent tax to the November ballot.

Mark Sexton, Alachua County spokesman, said the commission felt the most important issue was to improve Alachua County’s road infrastructure.

Commissioner Thomas Hawkins, however, disagrees with the county’s decision to kill the transit sales tax proposal, saying the 1/4-cent tax will focus on roads with no funds going to sidewalks.

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“It’s fundamentally an ideological opposition to transit and to walking as ways of getting around,” he said.

Bob Woods, Gainesville city spokesman, said the city commission will discuss a response to the county’s vote during the city commission meeting on June 7.

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