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Hillsborough Voters Weigh-In On Sales Tax Referendums

Nov 6, 2018

They may not be the issues that are driving voters to the polls this midterm election, but voters have been thinking about the two sales tax referendums on the ballot in Hillsborough County. One will provide a half-penny sales tax for Hillsborough County Schools for a period of 10 years.

Superintendent Jeff Eakins has been been explaining what the referendum will accomplish should voters pass it. Eakins said if that happens, it will provide the money to pay off the 70 mortgages left over from boom-time building, pay off $1 billion dollars in deferred maintenance and pay for an anticipated $1 billion dollars in growth, with the influx of new students.

Voters all across the county seemed aware of the school referendum and the penny for transportation sales tax. But some, like Astrid Doty, who voted at The Seminole Heights Garden Club in Tampa this morning found the ballot language daunting.

Doty said, "My concern with the first one though, with the transportation, was the way it was worded, does that mean they're gonna take money from somewhere else to fund it?"

"Um, 'cause the way it was worded, should it be paid for by this, well, you mean as opposed to somewhere else, so it's still the same, not enough money--in the end, so it was confusing," Doty said. She wasn't the only voter we spoke to who found the language of the referendum perplexing.

Some of the voters, like University of South Florida student Christopher Webb voted yes for the sales tax to fund school maintenance, but not for the transit question.

"I voted no for that one," Webb said. "Why, because I feel like if we voted yes, then they would implement more...toll roads, and we would have to pay more for those and I feel like the traffic either way would be still the same, either way, doesn't matter," Webb said.

One Seminole Heights voter who refused to give her name, balked at the sales tax to fund transportation. "It lasts for 30 years," she said.

"All For Transportation" would:

  • Send 54 percent of the funds to fix roads and improve intersections
  • Provide 45 percent for expansion of public transit
  • Address a current backlog of between $8 and $13 billion dollars in transportation projects
  • Create an oversight committee to make funding decisions

The chair of that organization expects the sales tax increase to bring in $280 million dollars for transportation projects in the first year.

Backers of the Hillsborough sales tax referendums were concerned that voters might have ballot fatigue and not even get to their referendum questions, because they were placed toward or at the end of a long ballot. 

But Tampa's Joel Davis, who voted in Seminole Heights, laughed and said he got all the way through the four-page ballot. "I feel like more funding for better transporation structure and more funding for schools is something that I can get behind," Davis said. "A cent-and-a-half total is not a huge deal."