Franklin County commissioners quietly, and unanimously, last week shelved a proposal they planned to place on the November ballot to levy a half-cent sales tax to cover the cost of health care for the medically indigent.
Commissioner Smokey Parrish opened the Sept. 5 special meeting, set up to review ballot language for the measure, with a motion to kill the proposal completely. Commissioner William Massey immediately seconded it.
“I made the motion to proceed with this and after further study I don’t feel like it’s the right thing to do at this time,” said Parrish.
On Aug. 20, the commissioners had asked County Attorney Michael Shuler to draft ballot language for the half-cent sales tax, to go to fund medically indigent care for county residents. If passed with a simple majority vote on Nov. 5, beginning in 2014 the half-cent would bring in at least $800,000, based on state estimates for the fiscal year ending Sept. 30, 2014.
Commissioner Pinki Jackel said she supported the move to shelve the half-cent sales tax idea for now, and then turned to a proposal now on the commissioners’ table to bring to voters a plan to approve a doubling of the current bed tax, from 2 to 4 percent.
She said members of the Tourist Development Council, strong proponents of the bed tax increase on overnight rentals, have said they would like to review the ballot language for the measure in advance of it going forward.
The commissioners had considered placing the bed tax plan on the November ballot, but now say they won’t go forward with a vote at least until next year. Shuler said that unlike the sales tax for the medically indigent, which has specific times when it can go into effect, an increase in the bed tax can be set to go into effect at any time, or the default of the first day of the second month after the ordinance accompanying the ballot measure goes into effect.
“It’s at the discretion of the board (of county commissioners),” he said.
Jackel moved “that we table the matter until we can let the TDC board review the ballot language and the timing of how this would come into effect,” and Massey seconded. The motion carried 4-1, with Noah Lockley opposed.
“I’m going to be against that because some of the people, they’re not represented on the tourist board,” he said, referring to the stance of several owners of Apalachicola hotels, motels and beds-and-breakfasts that a representative be seated on the board. “I think everybody should be represented on the board, at least one. I’m against until we revamp.”