With the Nov. 6 general election five days away, Gainesville and Alachua County residents will have to vote on a number local issues.
One of the them includes a proposed surtax, which would fund an estimated $337 million in road improvements through a 3/4-cent sales tax.
Alachua County Assistant Public Works Director David Cerlanek said funding from the “Fix Our Roads” tax would go to projects all around Alachua County, including Gainesville.
“Whether it be for repairs and maintenance, it could also be used for new construction of roadways as well,” he said. “There’s about $30 to $35 million worth of pavements management need, and the city is expected to get around $82 million over the next 15 years, so we feel like the rest of that money can be used for new construction and reconstruction projects.”
Alachua County Commissioner Susan Baird said she thinks the tax is the best way for roads to be repaired.
“I think anybody who is driving down the road will probably agree with me that the roads need to be fixed,” she said.
Jenna Mastrodicasa, former Gainesville city commissioner and current vice president of Student Affairs at UF, disagreed, saying the tax isn’t right for Gainesville right now.
“The distribution of who pays into it and how much money you get back out is not equitable,” she said. “Gainesville taxpayers will put a lot more in than they will get out because so much more of the projects are outside of the city.”
Although Mastrodicasa said the city wouldn’t see much return from the tax, Cerlank said the county has a system for prioritizing projects, and it allows residents to participate.
“The process is usually handled through the budgeting sessions and the commissions … each of them do a capital improvements program process that’s part of their budget,” he said. “Those capital improvements programs are all held in public hearings.”
Baird said if voters choose to vote against the tax, funding would have to come from an increase in property taxes.
She added the roads will only become more extensive to fix over time if left alone.
“Roads are not like human bodies, they do not get better over time,” she said. “In fact, it’s material, it gets worse over time. So if we don’t fix it now, in two years it’s going to be expensive, and in four years it’s going to be much more expensive because roads end up declining at an exponential cost.”
Mastrodicasa said that Republicans and Democrats have come out against the tax.
She said she was surprised over who was supporting it, including the Gainesville Tea Party.
With opinions ranging all over the board, the vote on the surtax will be left up to the voters whether the surtax will go into affect.
Cerlanek said he wanted voters to have as much information on the proposed tax as they need.
“The idea is to learn about the information that’s there, and to go in there as an informed voter,” he said. “That’s all we’re hoping to do,” he said.
Chris Alcantara wrote this story online.