Santa Rosa nixes sales tax referendum

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“My concern with a special election is we know from history when combining projects, citizens get suspicious of that.”

AARON LITTLE Santa Rosa Press Gazette @AaronL_SRPG

MILTON — Santa Rosa County commissioners have decided against a special election for a half-cent sales tax to pay for a judicial center and jail expansion.

The board moved last week to put out a request for quotes for design work for the jail expansion and the new judicial center as well as tasking county staff with developing a timeline for the projects.

Commissioner Sam Parker brought a plan to the board Oct. 12 to pay for both items with a half-cent sales tax. He suggested a referendum vote so construction could commence six months early.

Commissioner Bob Cole suggested the board wait until the regular August election to ask for the sales tax.

“I’m all for combining the projects,” Cole said. “My concern with a special election is we know from history when combining projects, citizens get suspicious of that. (Waiting) for the regular election shows … we’re being prudent as a board but also gives more time to sell the whole project to the citizens. We’ll explain it properly and get the figures tightened up a bit.”

Cole said a sales tax the board pursued in 2002 failed because there were too many projects attached to the tax.

Commission Chairman Rob Williamson and Commissioner Don Salter agreed with the move. Williamson, who voted against the $850,000 land purchase Sept. 14, described it as an encouraging step.

“I cannot support spending $148,000 for a special election for this just because … three commissioners voted for the judicial center but we have no site plan or footprint,” Williamson said.

“I agree with Commissioner Cole, not having the special election,” Salter said. “As far as combining projects, as long as we keep them under public safety, it makes more sense.”

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