Vote “No” on proposed sales tax

To the Editor:

I will begin by commending the Osceola News Gazette staff on their reporting of the ongoing issue concerning the traffic and road issues we all are facing in Osceola County.

New light has been shed on the solutions that are being proposed, and the individuals involved in the decision-making.

Unfortunately, previous elected officials haven't placed enough emphasis on the balance of development, road infrastructure and conservation of the natural beauty of Osceola County. I have resided in this wonderful area for 32 years, and have witnessed the transformation of what was once farmland, citrus groves, cattle pastures and two-lane roads. The continued push to develop these natural areas into sprawling communities, retail magnets and transportation gridlock is appalling. I recall listening to the owls in the early morning hours, watching the osprey and bald eagles soaring above the landscape and enjoying the sweet smell of orange blossoms. Now, we are focusing our attention on brick and mortar, blacktop, transportation and the pollution associated with the increase in development.

A Political Action Committee (PAC) has been formed to raise monies for increased advertising to gain support from Osceola County voters for the proposed sales tax increase. This PAC claims in its ads that the tax increase will "fix the traffic" and that the dollars generated by the tax will stay in Osceola County. If we look at the bigger picture, this PAC is formed by a land development company employee and a former Osceola County commissioner and property appraiser, who admits that minimal road improvements took place under his watch, and admits to having personal financial interests involved.

 The initiative is supported by Lynx and SunRail (which has a current commissioner on its board, and whose funding also goes to neighboring counties); the Central Florida Expressway Authority (which has a current commissioner on its board, and funds toll roads in several counties); and real estate entities (with a current commissioner having personal financial interests involved). Their advertising states “nearly 50 percent of the surtax will be paid by visitors and tourists.” That percentage will depend on whether those individuals are buying goods and services in Osceola County, or are spending in a neighboring county. The county's largest employer, Disney, is not located in Osceola County. Therefore, those tax dollars will not benefit us.

Also involved in our decision, is the Osceola County Commission's ability to redirect funds however they see fit, or to try to remedy a failed endeavor (like spending half a million dollars to entice a sports team to leave the county). Or to give our tax dollars to entities not based solely in Osceola County, Lynx and the Expressway Authority. If the commissioners are not doing their due diligence, and acting on behalf of the voters that gave them the opportunity to serve us, then we should do our due diligence when the time comes to decide whether to replace or re-elect them.

This broader perspective, which has been reported by ONG, gives the voters of Osceola County better insight when we go to the polls on May 21. This sales tax increase will affect all of us who buy our goods and services in Osceola County, from the workers making minimum wage, to the CEOs of companies wishing to further develop Osceola County (if they indeed spend in our county).

I would like to encourage the voters of Osceola County to vote “No” on this proposed sales tax increase. We may never again smell the lovely fragrance of orange blossoms, or watch eagles soar overhead in Osceola County if we continue to allow the natural beauty of this area to be overtaken by greed, and not the will of the people.

Kevin Bailey

St. Cloud

Support the sales tax increase

To the Editor:

We have a May 21 ballot referendum to vote for an addition to our sales tax that will go for improving our roads.

The questions to consider regarding this issue is do you want less time on the road and more time at home or on the job? Or, do you want your kids and grandkids driving on less crowded roads that are safer?

Growth is a fact of life in Osceola County and it is not abstract. Consider that in 2002, when I first got elected to the Osceola School Board, we had just over 40,000 students attending our schools. When I retired in 2018, we had just under 68,000 students. That is a 70 percent increase in student population and our county population has grown at the same rate, and we do not have 70 percent more roads.

Surely there will be those who rail against any increase in fees or taxes, no one likes new taxes. Meanwhile, none in the opposition offer a plan to improve transportation and instead will just pontificate about “bad government.”

Despite this, we all want good roads, good schools, good law enforcement, good fire departments, good parks, etc. That all costs money – lots of money.

This is not a partisan issue. I’ve never been in Republican or Democratic bumper to bumper traffic on U.S. Highway 192 or Pleasant Hill Road. Having been a local elected official for 16 years has taught me that no one from Tallahassee or Washington D.C. is going to come to our rescue with a vault of cash to help Osceola out. We have to solve our local problems ourselves. No matter what has happened in the past it is just that, the past. The real question now is how can we solve our transportation needs going forward.

I am voting for and supporting this tax, and so should you. Time is more valuable than money and this tax will help alleviate our traffic saving all of us loads of time. Keep in mind we can all make more money; we cannot make more time.

Jay Wheeler