Survey backs penny tax
WESLEY CHAPEL - Proponents of Penny for Pasco are laying the groundwork to place a renewal of the 1-cent sales tax on the November ballot. They commissioned a survey in October as a first step toward an effort to persuade voters to allow the tax to continue beyond its 10-year expiration date. The survey polled 400 likely voters in October, with 78 percent saying they would support renewal of the tax, said Ray Gadd, who helped lead the original push for Penny for Pasco. Gadd said the 78 percent includes people who are passionate about their support and those who are lukewarm.The survey, conducted by Public Opinion Strategies of Alexandria, Va., cost $15,000 and was paid for by money left in a campaign account held by the Pasco Citizens Committee, a group that supported the penny initiative. Penny for Paso was approved by voters in March 2004 and took effect on Jan. 1, 2005, raising the sales tax from 6 cents to 7 cents per dollar. The proceeds are divided among government entities, with the school board and the county commission each receiving 45 percent. The other 10 percent is divided among the county's municipalities. The penny tax comes to an end at the end of 2014 unless voters agree to an extension. Gadd, a former Pasco assistant superintendent of schools, said there's a reason for putting the penny on the ballot two years ahead of its expiration. The presidential election is this November, which should draw a large turnout. "The last time around we got criticized for doing it in the March primary," Gadd said. Bill Bunting, a Pasco Republican state committeeman who led the penny opposition in 2004, said that's a good move. "I'm going to commend them for putting it on the November ballot," Bunting said. "Putting it on the Democratic primary in 2004 was insulting to Republicans in Pasco County." Bunting said he's undecided about a possible penny tax renewal but will be studying how the money has been used. "If it's being spent wisely, fine," he said. Bunting expressed skepticism about the survey results, though, and wants to see how the question was worded. Ultimately, it's up to the county commission to decide whether to place the penny tax renewal on the ballot. Pasco schools Superintendent Heather Fiorentino said she hopes the tax will be renewed. She said in the long run it saves Pasco taxpayers money because tourists help pay for it, while property owners get a tax break. Under Penny for Pasco, the school board reduced its capital improvement property tax from 2 mills to 1.5 mills.
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