The Marion County Commission and Chair Kathy Bryant set out to squash rumors of a second possible tax increase on the ballot this November that they say started online.
During Tuesday’s meeting of the board, commissioners rejected the notion that “another sales tax referendum” would appear on the ballot.
“I have been asked if our board is going to consider having another sales tax referendum on the ballot for the school board. I believe that there was a mil that was passed last year, or in 2018, by the voters for the school board. I believe that school board member Nancy Stacy is going to her board to ask us if we would also put another referendum. I will go ahead and tell you, I personally would not support that. It would be confusing to voters, and it’s not the appropriate time for that,” said Bryant, referring to a previously approved millage rate increase in 2018 by voters.
Bryant indicated that she noticed additional rumors on social media, where she saw a poll pitting the Penny Sales tax against the rumored tax to benefit the school board.
“I had someone send me a screenshot of something that was on social media last night where someone was polling the two pennies differently. So we need to go ahead and deal with this,” said Bryant.
Commissioner Michelle Stone echoed her sentiments.
“I would not be voting for their request,” said Stone, agreeing that it may be beneficial to send a letter of intent to the school board.
Marion County Attorney Matthew Minter did not think it would be possible to even consider the increase.
“I think there is a provision in the discretionary sales taxes that says that the maximum of all discretionary sales taxes is 1 cent,” said Minter.
After a brief discussion, Marion County Sheriff Billy Woods took to the podium to explain the previous provision’s focus on the “hardening of schools” and school safety. Approval for that provision came in the wake of incidents across the nation and a school shooting at Forest High School in 2018 that left one student injured.
“It’s not my business, nor do I care to get into the school board’s business of how they spend it and where they’re spending it, but the money is there for the [safety of the schools]” said Woods. He indicated that he and Ocala Police Department Chief Greg Graham originally campaigned in favor of the referendum because of the designated use for safety.