Sales Tax Extension To Be On August Ballot

May 10, 2016

Credit Ray Hollister / WJCT News

Jacksonville City Council gave the go ahead for voters Tuesday to decide whether they want the Better Jacksonville 1/2-cent sales tax to be extended for 30 more years. 

The money would be used to pay off the city’s $2.6 billion pension debt.

The Florida legislature approved Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry’s repurposing and extension of the Better Jacksonville 1/2-cent sales tax in March. And Council unanimously approved the tax extension to be on the August 30 Primary ballot.

Northside Pastor James Sampson spoke with a group of religious leaders against rushing the pension tax through. He said he doesn’t trust freed-up tax revenue will go to Northside projects.  

“We know we need the money,” he said. “We’re not against the mayor. We’re simply saying Mr. mayor, include us with some tangible information so that we can disseminate it through our community.”

The city’s Chief Administrative Officer Sam Mousa said the administration needs to take care of the problem as quickly as possible. He said this year the city spent 26 percent of its operating budget on pension debt. He said over the next couple years he foresees it rising to $300 million dollars. The annual budget is $1 billion.

Council member Dennis Garrett urged doubters to support the tax. He said projects like drainage fixes are being neglected.

“It’s a lot of money that’s going down the black hole that we could be using in these districts, all the 14 districts in the city,” he said.

The Council also unanimously passed a bill that implements a new state law requiring human-trafficking awareness signs to be posted in certain massage parlors and strip clubs. Businesses could be fined $500 if they don’t put them up.

Some advocates have said the signs should be posted in more locations

Also during the meeting, Council is also set to approve more than a million dollars that will be used to fund public art projects.

Editor's note: This article was updated with Tuesday night's City Council vote.

Original version posted at 12:53 p.m.

The Jacksonville City Council meets Tuesday evening. Human trafficking signage and a proposed sales tax extension referendum are among the items that will be considered.

The Florida legislature approved Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry’s repurposing and extension of the Better Jacksonville half-cent sales tax in March.

The money would be used to pay off the city’s $2.6 billion pension debt. But first the city council has to approve the measure to go on the August primary ballot. There’s a public hearing on the matter at Tuesday’s Council meeting.

A University of North Florida poll shows about 40 percent of those asked don’t yet have an opinion on the tax.

Also at the meeting, the Council will vote on the implementation of a state law requiring human-trafficking awareness signs to be posted in certain massage parlors and strip clubs. Businesses could be fined $500 if they don’t put them up.  

Some advocates have said the signs should be posted in more locations.

The Council is also set to approve more than a million dollars to fund public art projects.

The meeting begins at 5 p.m. at City Hall.

Follow WJCT's Lindsey Kilbride on Twitter @Lindskilbride for live updates during the meeting.