Local firm's polling shows most oppose two potential tax referendums


Published: Monday, January 23, 2012 at 12:10 p.m.
Last Modified: Monday, January 23, 2012 at 11:11 p.m.

Recent voter polling results do not bode well for two potential sales tax referendums that might appear on the November ballot.

Over three days in mid-January, Gainesville-based political polling firm War Room Logistics queried 902 registered voters on a potential one-cent sales tax for transportation projects, a possible one-cent sales tax for children's programs and the renewal of the one-mill property tax for public schools.

The property tax for schools was the only one to poll favorably. Of the voters polled, 56.3 percent were in favor of that tax, 41.1 percent were against it, and 2.6 percent were undecided.

War Room Logistics' Alex Patton said that a threshold of 60 percent support in polling is usually needed for a sales tax initiative to have a chance in an election. Given that, he said based on the polling results, only the renewal of the mill for schools looked to have a chance of passage at this point in time.

Back in 2008, the one-mill property tax passed with 63.45 percent support. Unless voters renew it, it sunsets at year's end.

At this point, the referendum wording and the specific projects to be funded are undetermined for both the potential transportation sales tax that the County Commission might place on the ballot and the children's programs sales tax under consideration by a community coalition led by the Partnership for Strong Families.

Today, county commissioners are scheduled to review the draft lists of transportation projects that were culled from the county's road resurfacing needs and the capital improvement plans of several municipalities, including Gainesville.

Of the voters polled, 43.4 percent said they would either definitely or probably approve such a tax, while 53.7 percent were against it, and 2.9 percent were undecided.

The complications for that potential tax referendum come into play well before it would go to voters. It remains to be seen if county commissioners and the Gainesville City Commission can reach an accord on how to split the funding and the type of projects to fund. For example, County Commissioner Susan Baird has said that given the county's estimated $380 million backlog of resurfacing needs, voters will not approve a project that includes transit.

On the other hand, during Thursday's meeting, Gainesville City Commissioner Thomas Hawkins said he was “nervous” about the referendum's chances if it primarily focused on the resurfacing of rural roads.

On the children's programs sales-tax initiative, voters were asked if they would support a “1-cent sales tax surcharge for children's programs.”

Of the voters polled, 42.8 percent said they would “probably” or “definitely” support that tax, while 54.1 percent were against it, and 3.1 percent were undecided.

Shawn Salamida, president and CEO of Partnership for Strong Families, said details of that potential sales tax referendum, including whether it would be for 1 cent or a lesser amount and whether a campaign to place it on the ballot will even move forward, still need to be worked out.

“We're exploring the option, but we have a lot to learn and a long way to go,” Salamida said.

The tax has been under discussion intermittently since at least 2010. The model for it is The Children's Trust in Miami-Dade, which used revenues from a property tax referendum to fund social service programs and nonprofit organizations focused on children.

War Room Logistics is a partnership between Republican political consultants Patton and Stafford Jones, the head of the Alachua County Republican Executive Committee.

Of the voters sampled 55.1 percent were Democrats, 28.4 percent were Republican, 16 percent were independent and 0.5 percent were members of another political party. The polling was conducted from Jan. 13-15 and had an estimated margin of error of 3.25 percent.

Contact Christopher Curry at 374-5088 or chris.curry@gvillesun.com.

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