South Florida 912 Letter to BCC on Sales Tax

This was sent to the seven county commissioners today. The Tuesday, 5/18 agenda item has been postponed until June, most likely ending discussion of an August ballot measure, but the issue is alive and well for a November ballot. Currently 4 of the 11 cities with F/R districts have voted no. See: nonewsalestax.org

May 12, 2010

Board of County Commissioners

Regarding the proposed Fire/Rescue sales tax surcharge proposal, the leadership of the South Florida 9-12 Project is joining other Palm Beach grassroots groups in asking that you do not pursue this as a 2010 ballot measure. It is fitting that the matter has been delayed for 30 days as the cities appear to be lining up against it.

While there is some merit to the idea of reducing the county tax burden from ad valorem taxes, it does not appear that this proposal does this, nor does it contain any incentives to reduce spending in an area where the budget has grown much faster than the county as a whole.

We have tremendous respect for the professional fire and rescue personnel in our county and the valuable services rendered by them. We object, however, to a new local sales tax dedicated to the exclusive use of fire and rescue departments. Among the reasons:

  • It is permanent – there is no sunset provision.
  • There are no limits or caps – whatever is collected from 1% of sales can be spent by Fire/Rescue.
  • It contains incentives to increase spending, particularly at the city level (e.g. unfunded pensions).
  • It results in 9 months of double taxation – sales tax starts in January, offsets do not kick in until September of that year.
  • It is funding essential services with an unpredictable revenue source – ad-valorem taxes can be forecast, sales taxes are subject to swings in economic activity.
  • There is no guarantee of revenue neutrality in the statute or the proposal – only that the Fire/Rescue portion of ad valorem taxes be offset, not that property tax will be reduced.
  • The Fire/Rescue budget needs to be brought under control – the budget grew by 82% in the 6 years that call volume (workload) only increased by 25%

Please reject this proposal and leave the Fire/Rescue budget as it is – part of the county budget subject to yearly scrutiny.


Shannon Armstrong, Organizer and Founder
South Florida 9-12 Project

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