County’s “Hail Mary” fails to win special referendum

Historic City News editor Michael Gold reports that three St Johns County Commissioners honored their commitment to resist new taxes as a solution to the burgeoning spending proposed by County Administrator Michael Wanchick for Fiscal Year 2016.

Public sentiment has waned steadily since Wanchick made the suggestion to increase the sales tax rate from 6 cents to 7 cents on the dollar for the next 10-years. Facing almost certain failure in a special election proposed for November 3rd, those politicos close to Wanchick no doubt contrived what some in the audience called a ploy to surrender one-half of the tax increase to the school district in order to get them involved; thereby increasing their chances of approval.

The usual suspects, present and former county employees or officials, or beneficiaries of a mushrooming county budget, rose to address the commission during public comments; joining School Board Chair Beverly Slough and members Tommy Allen, Kelly Barrera, Patrick Canan and Bill Mignon who offered an interesting perspective.

The school board was invited to share in the proposed penny if it made it to the ballot. But, unlike the Board of County Commissioners, School Board member Kelly Barrera told Historic City News that there is already a clear plan for how those added funds will be used.

While there was virtually universal support for the school district, rated number 1 in districts statewide, the same level of support and trust for the St Johns County Board of Commissioners simply doesn’t exist.

Three of the five commissioners — Bill McClure, Jeb Smith and Jimmy Johns — each voted against including the school district as part of a sales tax bundle deal with the county; which ended up being one of the two main sticking points. Citizens were overwhelmingly clear that comingling the two issues on one ballot was wrong.

Of nearly 200 attending in the audience, dozens took the two-minute opportunity to say what was on their mind. Speakers were about 3-to-1 against the new sales tax and combining the ballot for voting.

In any event, the event is over. The referendum, at least as it pertains to the county, is moot. Look for the regressive, county local option sales tax discussion to raise the heat, even if not the illumination.

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