Columbia County School District’s Half-Cent Sales Tax Surcharge: Vague, Misleading, and Wrong

Columbia County School District’s Half-Cent Sales Tax Surcharge: Vague, Misleading, and Wrong

Sign: Future of Columbia | Columbia County Observer Chart

COLUMBIA COUNTY, FL — Way to the end of this year’s county ballot is a “yes” or “no” vote for a half-cent school improvement sales tax surcharge. It is poorly thought out, lacks specific detail, and includes blatantly false and misleading statements.

A sales tax is a regressive tax

A regressive tax is a tax unfairly imposed on low-income families. Sales tax is a regressive tax because people who earn less pay a higher percentage of their salary as sales tax. The more a person earns, the lower the sales tax as a component of their income.

All studies show that Florida is generally in the top three states with the most regressive tax structures.

Recently, Florida overtook Texas as the second most regressive tax state.

A full analysis of the US tax structure can be found here: ITEP: who pays?

Florida’s tax system of funding the state through sales tax, excise tax, and fees gives its wealthiest residents the lowest overall tax burden.

A graph of sales tax as a percentage of revenue
Graphic source:

Previously, county voters had refused the half-cent jail surcharge. The school surcharge is worse.

The law

The school district can educate on the surtax referendum, but it cannot advocate.

The district chose Diana Swisher to lead the education component to raise sales tax for Columbia County residents and those passing through the county.

Supporters of the sales tax increase have formed a PAC – political action committee – just like politicians do to advocate for the passage of the sales tax increase.

Diana Swisher, full-time volunteer coordinator for the district, is also chair of the political action committee, leading the charge to raise the sales tax.

What’s the plan, “Sam?”

Only the most vague plans and a wish list

The county school
website does not make it easy to find half-cent sales tax information.

 member of the Charles Maxwell school board.  2009
In 2009, school board member Charles Maxwell was the only elected Columbia County council member to see the value of impact fees.

The district’s information lacks definitive answers, if any, about actual financial planning, and its motto, “Investing in our community, one student at a time,” has nothing to do with the student sales surcharge referendum. half a cent, which relates to the improvement of school facilities.

The County Political Action Committee (PAC) is registered under Funding Our Future. Its financial statements can be viewed on the
Election Supervisor website.

Peruse the PAC’s financial records and you’ll find that the majority of donations come from entrepreneurs, those who will directly benefit from the passage of the sales tax increase. The school district attorney, Douglas & Douglas, also made a nice donation.

The PAC website has a different name than its registered name. The PAC website is called
Future of Colombia. Scroll down a bit on the PAC homepage, and you’ll find the statement: “Sales tax is a FAIR tax because everyone pays.”

The PAC: The False Claims Given to the Public Are True

As mentioned earlier, a sales tax is patently unfair because those who earn the least proportionally pay the most.

The PAC also states that if the half-cent “surtax” is not passed, property taxes will rise, further stating that it “is only a burden on homeowners.”

It’s fear and it’s not right. Businesses pay school taxes like everyone else. School taxes on the property tax bill will increase.

Unlike property taxes, the state considers school taxes so important that they cannot be reduced.

Columbia’s future also says the district should access the impact fee if the “surcharge” doesn’t pass.

The school district does not have access to impact fees. That’s the job of county 5.

The last time the county saw impact charges was in 2008. See:
Impact charges go the way of the dodo. Only board member Maxwell speaks for the districtt.

Impact charges pay for development impact on infrastructure.

An impact fee is usually a one-time payment imposed by a local government on a property developer. The fee is intended to offset the financial impact of a new development on public infrastructure. Public infrastructure includes schools, roads, parks, recreational facilities, water, sewers and other services.

In 2009, school board member Charles Maxwell was the only Columbia County elected official with the courage to stand up against the county’s vested business interests, the County Chamber of Commerce and Builders read.

If county fathers had listened to Mr. Maxwell, some of the schools in the county would not be in the pitiful state they are now.

Future of Columbia incorrectly stated that impact fees only fall on business owners. It’s not true.

Santa Clause Lives: It’s called the proposed half-cent surcharge

Planning hasn’t been the Columbia County School District’s forte.

project list (wish list) for the windfall projected by the district through the surtax, if passed, looks like something a little child would put under a Christmas tree. It does not have a projected price and zero explanation.

Close examination of certain items on the list is overwhelming for the school board and administration, as many items appear to be maintenance items.

Epilogue: vote “no”

The district needs to develop a real plan that does not pander to vested interests, that is accountable and well thought out, and that is approved by the public.

This is not the half-cent sales tax surcharge.

The proposed surcharge should be rejected.

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