Escambia County Politics

Commission Aims for Library & Gas Taxes

November 8, 2012

Continuing the currently unfolding discussion regarding funding for the West Florida Public Library system, the Escambia County Commission agreed this morning to move forward with activating a dedicated library tax and taking over management of the system.

“We’re biting off a big one here, but we can do it, we can do it if we just work together,” said Commission Vice Chairman Gene Valentino.

Under the current interlocal agreement, the county and the city of Pensacola fund the library system, with the city assuming the managerial role. This has created recent funding disagreements, and resulted currently in reduced hours at library branches.

Officials from both the city and county have recently expressed interest in collecting a MSTU—a dedicated tax—for the purpose of funding the library system. They are also looking to dissolve the current interlocal and pass management on to the county, with the library board of trustees also taking on a larger role.

“This is another example of functional consolidation,” Valentino said, describing the move as a “game-changer” and “real team-spirited approach.”

Though it wasn’t on their Committee of the Whole agenda today, commissioners also tackled another funding problem: mass transit.

Commissioners have long bemoaned the cost of funding the Escambia County Area Transit system. Chairman Wilson Robertson has repeatedly linked the recent decision to pullback on the county’s funding contribution to the library system with the the city’s past decision to discontinue its funding contribution to the transit system.

Outgoing Commissioner Marie Young today motioned for the county to levy a gas tax in order to fund the transit system. It’s a move that has been discussed by the commission before.

“$3.2 million? That’s about three and a half cents a gallon, right?” Valentino asked.
“That’s correct,” said county budget guru Amy LaVoy, “but I don’t believe you can levy a half-cent.”

Young clarified the tax at 4 cents—“let’s get it right”—and Valentino seconded the motion. He called Young’s motion “bold” and “proper.”

“Good, that’s my legacy,” Young said, “now let’s vote on it.”

With a unanimous vote, the commission had the four votes required for such a move. Commissioner Kevin White was absent.

Because this morning was a COW meeting, the board must formally take up the gas tax during a regular, or specially called, and properly advertised meeting. Wanting to avoid the possibility of losing the necessary four votes once two new commissioners are seated later this month, the board decided to slate the issue for Nov. 19—which county attorney Alison Rogers said would be possible if the Pensacola News Journal would allow them a “super, secret exception” from its normal advertising deadlines.

The commission scheduled a vote with its current line up, but Young noted that she thought the vote would hold regardless.

“We only need one to say ‘yes,’ and that’s the one that’s sitting in this chair and I’m sure he’ll vote ‘yes,’” she said, referring to incoming commissioner Lumon May.

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  • jeeperman November 12, 2012 at 9:29 am

    According to state reports (based on 2010 sales), the county should bring in $6.4 million if a four cent per gallon tax is placed on gas and diesel.
    So why not a 2 cent tax if the county only needs to 3.2 mill per year for ECAT funding ?

  • Robert Jackson November 10, 2012 at 10:28 am

    Amen! Every time the City helps fund a project with the County, the city property owners pay twice.

  • RTDavis November 9, 2012 at 10:30 am

    Given the level of tax subsidies for the bus system (i.e., nearly $7 million annually–combined local, state, and federal dollars), and given the low numbers of bus passengers (i.e., have you ever noticed how empty the busses are when they travel along the streets?), perhaps we would all be better off by simply scrapping the busses and using the subsidy money instead to buy every bus-rider a brand new car!

    Whoa! I ought to take that back. Someone in charge of taxation and redistribution might actually think that is a great idea. After all, given the number of people who are receiving so much from tax-payers via government redistribution, it is not a huge leap of logic to believe that we are not far from redistribution of cars (and subsidies for gasoline and maintenance costs, of course!)

    I’m sorry. Did that sound a bit cranky? Well, tell that to the local politicos who are on the verge of approving a 4 cent hike in gasoline taxes. Sure, it is only 4 cents, everyone says, but you have to eventually ask the question: When is a little bit more finally too much? (Note: take a look at the pump and see how much of your $3.30 per gallon is actually taxation to federal, state, and local governments.)

    Well, that is enough for now from the increasingly bitter curmudgeon on the soap box.

  • Leroy Carter November 8, 2012 at 1:46 pm

    What so many people seem to forget is city residents pay for the library twice, once with city taxes and also from county property taxes. It seems as if the elected officials seem to conventiely forget this. Its about time they were reminded.