Considering “nobody likes taxes,” the League of Women Voters hosted a debate Monday, allowing those both in favor and opposed to the tax proposals on the November ballot a chance to tell their story.
“We voters have some difficult decisions to make in November,” said Rosalie Shaffer, the president of the organization.
Included in that difficult decision is whether to renew the existing half-cent sales tax for the Manatee County School District and implementing a new half-cent sales tax for Manatee County government.
Mac Carraway, of Carraway Consulting, and John Horne, of Anna Maria Oyster Bar, spoke about their roles in the political action committee, Forward Manatee, and why they want to see both tax measures approved. Ed Goff, a community activist who runs a website called Our Manatee, spoke in opposition of the taxes.
“It’s a good idea, but I think it’s the wrong time,” Goff said.
Goff mostly focused his criticism on the school district’s past financial issues, including suspending the collection of impact fees from 2009 until 2016. That meant the school district was using sales tax money where it could have been using impact fee money to fund projects instead. In his allotted time period, Goff barely had time to run through his issues with the county proposal.
Both Carraway and Horne called the county and school district needs “here and now” and said they named the PAC “Forward Manatee” partially to help voters look to the future, instead of looking in the past.
“Looking back isn’t really going to get much of anything done,” Carrway said.
“We can’t let the sins of our past jeopardize our future,” Horne said.
Goff argued back, saying that unless the governmental entities learned from the sins of the past, they’d be doomed to repeat the same mistakes. Goff advocated more time before the vote and more restrictions — including asking voters to re-approve the tax every six years instead of every 15 — before he’d feel comfortable asking people to vote yes on the measures.
The Forward Manatee PAC will have a kickoff event Thursday at the Manatee County Chamber of Commerce from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m.