The Marion County Commission struck down two tax proposals Tuesday morning originally drafted to help pay for a minor league baseball stadium in Ocala.
The project, designed to fund a stadium that would eventually become home to the Tampa Yankees, was pulled at the request of the Ocala City Council after Yankees officials told the council they believed the tax idea was dividing the community.
If the stadium referendum had been approved, Marion County taxpayers would have had the opportunity to vote in a March special election on a five-year, half-cent tax to cover the $38 million price tag.
However, the project was met with opposition from citizens and city officials since it was introduced in October. Some thought money would be better spent on infrastructure and school improvements. Other residents complained a wealthy sports enterprise shouldn’t receive tax breaks by playing in a stadium on government-owned land.
“There’s no reason why this can’t be a taxable piece of land,” citizen Roger Knechtel said at the Tuesday meeting.
Henry Munoz, another resident, agreed with Knechtel because “if they get a tax break, I gotta pay for it. It comes down to that because you don’t get something for nothing.”
Commenters also requested commissioners reveal how they would’ve voted on the ordinances to help voters decide in the upcoming county commission election for Districts 2 and 4.
“Voters want to know where people stand on this issue,” resident Dave Walker said.
Citizens who spoke during the meeting also praised commissioners for holding off on the vote and maintaining control of the county’s money.
“I’m here today to say that I really appreciate your excellent stewardship of our money,” resident Jack Stackman told the commission. “Had you rubber-stamped the city of Ocala’s process, we’d be scheduled to have an election in March that probably wouldn’t have passed.”