Forward Manatee, a political committee formed to advocate for the passage of both the county and school sales tax initiatives on the November ballot, has so far received nearly $250,000 in contributions.
As of Sept. 2, Forward Manatee had received $246,685, mostly from businesses. The PAC had only spent $5,011.34.
Of the 64 contributions, 45 are from businesses. A company associated with Neal Communities, NCDG Management LLC, and Schroeder-Manatee Ranch each contributed $20,000 to the PAC, which is the largest individual contribution amount.
“Certainly we hoped for strong financial support, and we have received it,” said Mac Carraway with Forward Manatee. “We have strong business support. We are increasingly receiving broader based community support, and I think that’s a function of the kickoff event and us really starting to get some traction of getting out, starting to talk to people.”
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On Sept. 15, Forward Manatee had a kickoff event at Manatee Chamber of Commerce, calling on the community to support both the half-cent county sales tax and the extension of the school half-cent sales tax.
If both measures are approved — a half penny for the schools and a half penny for the county — it would raise the sales tax rate in the county from 6.5 percent to 7 percent. Each measure would be in effect for 15 years.
“Now we are kind of in full swing,” Carraway said Tuesday.
The kickoff has allowed the PAC to “reach more people to get more people involved,” said John Horne with Forward Manatee.
“We are getting more and more both financial and name support every day now,” he said. “We are getting such a wide diverse group of people that are believing in it. We are getting individual names now as much as companies and businesses.”
While the PAC only shows having spent just more than $5,000 to date, “the process of doing an education and advocacy campaign is not inexpensive,” Carraway said.
“These initiatives especially this cycle are fighting for attention with a presidential race that has been pretty consuming of people’s attention,” he said. “The resources are particularly needed when we are trying to get some attention in a really busy general election. We got to do our best and use these resources to get the message out and that’s what we are trying to do.”
To educate the public about its half-cent sales tax referendum, Manatee County will have seven meetings in October.
The first meeting will be Tuesday, Oct. 4, in Lakewood Ranch, and meetings will run through Thursday, Oct. 20. The meetings, which will all begin at 6 p.m., will be in each county commission district plus two meetings for the at-large commissioners.
“Manatee County will host a series of educational meetings in October aimed at raising the public’s awareness of this fall’s half-cent sales tax for infrastructure,” a news release states. “Voters will consider the county’s half-cent for roads, public safety equipment and parks during the Nov. 8 general election.”
During the meetings, commissioners will make an opening statement followed by a 20-minute presentation by county spokesman Nick Azzara. Following the presentation, voters will be able to direct questions to county staff in attendance about the proposed projects that would be funded with the tax.
“These community meetings are really geared at voters who want to make an informed decision on the half-cent for infrastructure question on the ballot,” Azzara said in the release. “We’ll go through the basics of what the tax is, why it’s on the ballot and talk about some of the projects will be funded in each district if voters approve the half-cent in November.”
Community meetings begin at 6 p.m.
- Commissioner Vanessa Baugh’s meeting will be held Tuesday, Oct. 4, at Lakewood Ranch Townhall, 8175 Lakewood Ranch Blvd., Lakewood Ranch.
- Commissioner John Chappie’s meeting will be held Wednesday, Oct. 5, at Manatee Utilities building, 4410 66th St. W., Bradenton.
- Commissioner Charles Smith’s meeting will be held Thursday, Oct. 6, at Palmetto Library, 923 Sixth Street W., Palmetto.
- Commissioner Carol Whitmore’s meeting will be held Tuesday, Oct. 11, at the Bradenton Area Convention Center, 1 Haben Blvd., Palmetto.
- Commissioner Robin DiSabatino’s meeting will be held Wednesday, Oct. 12, at South Manatee Branch Library, 6081 26th St. W., Bradenton.
- Commissioner Betsy Benac’s meeting will be Wednesday, Oct. 19, at Braden River Library, 4915 53rd Ave E., Bradenton.
- Commissioner Larry Bustle’s meeting will be held Thursday, Oct. 20, at the Rocky Bluff Library at 6750 U.S. 301 N., Ellenton.
Top contributions to Forward Manatee
- NCDG Management LLC, $20,000
- Schroeder-Manatee Ranch Inc., $20,000
- Woodruff & Sons Inc., $10,000
- Willis A. Smith Construction, $15,000
- Fawley Bryant Architects Inc., $10,000
- E.T. MacKenzie of Florida Inc., $10,000
- Ripa & Associates LLC, $10,000
- Frederick Derr & Co., $10,000
- Michael A. Kennedy, $10,000
- C & M Road Builders Inc., $10,000
- Harvard-Jolly Inc., $15,000
- QGS Development Inc., $10,000