Forward Manatee is a political action committee formed by citizens of Manatee County to support two referenda on the Nov. 8 ballot as follows:
▪ No. 6 For Manatee County — A new half-cent sales tax for existing infrastructure, focusing on transportation (71 percent), public safety and law enforcement (15 percent) and parks and green spaces (14 percent).
▪ No. For the Manatee County School Board — A continuation of a half-cent sales tax for school construction and renovation, school security, technology and safety.
These measures are really about the kind of future we want for Manatee County. Do we want better roads? Do we want better schools? Do we want safer communities?
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In 2015, the Manatee County Board of County Commissioners formed a citizens’ committee which was comprised of appointees by each commissioner (seven total) plus an appointee from each of six key county business organizations. This highly diverse and engaged group entered into a lengthy investigative process with a healthy skepticism about the county’s need for new revenue. Ultimately, the committee voted enthusiastically and unanimously in support of a new half-cent infrastructure sales tax for the county for the following reasons:
▪ The county is almost exclusively dependent on ad valorem / property taxes for its revenues, unlike ANY of its neighboring counties (who are ALL already at 7 percent sales tax). The committee judged this to be unsustainable.
▪ After hearing numerous presentations from the county department managers and others, the committee was convinced of their struggle to provide essential services in a highly competitive budget process. While we admired their ability to do more with less, the committee felt this was not in the best interests of the citizens of Manatee County.
▪ Property tax rates in Manatee County are the lowest on the Gulf Coast, and the committee felt that should not be jeopardized, nor should property owners be called on to shoulder an inordinate share of the cost of county government.
▪ The infrastructure sales tax would cost the typical Manatee County family about $5 a month, and visitors will contribute a third of the revenue.
▪ Finally, this approach would result in almost immediate action on long-overdue projects on the county’s list.
As to the school element, it is important to remember it is a continuation of the existing half-cent sales tax for schools. The new, newer and renovated schools in Manatee County are the direct result of the original passage of this measure. Now is not the time to deprive the Manatee County School District and its students of these critical funds. The needs are obvious:
▪ Repair, renovate and maintain existing schools.
▪ Relieve overcrowding at existing schools.
▪ Improvement in school safety.
▪ Improvements in school technology.
▪ New and improved student transportation / buses.
These are essentials for the competitive market our students will be in. Whether you have children in Manatee County schools or not, quality education defines the fabric of every community. Superintendent Dr. Diana Greene has clearly demonstrated her leadership and that she is worthy of our trust. We need to reciprocate and get this funding done. As she so ably says, “This is the right path. Right now.”
Very importantly, ALL the funds would stay right here in Manatee County. In addition, both initiatives include strong citizen oversight mechanisms already in place to ensure faithfulness to these purposes. Citizens are in charge!
Forward Manatee has earned the support of many individuals, businesses and organizations in Manatee County, including endorsements from the Lakewood Ranch Business Alliance, the Manatee Chamber of Commerce, the Bradenton Area Economic Development Corporation and the Realtor Association of Sarasota and Manatee. The Manatee County League of Women Voters also supports both initiatives.
As fellow citizens of Manatee County, we ask you with all of our energy to invest in Manatee County and vote Yes on 6 and 7. It is simply the right and necessary thing to do for ALL of Manatee County.