Osceola County registered voters came out and made their voices heard on May 21, defeating a sales tax increase from 7.5 to 8.5 percent, which was meant for transportation improvements.
The revenue, which was expected to generate $67 million for roads, was designed to benefit transportation projects including roadwork, improved intersections, bike lanes, sidewalks, walking trails, Lynx and SunRail.
Well, we are back to square one. Transportation woes are still lingering. So what’s the answer? Is the County Commission going to raise property taxes? Will it try to put the sales tax proposal back on the ballot for the 2020 General Election? Neither has been thoroughly discussed since the defeat of the referendum. However, one possible option was raised at the County Commission meeting on Monday and it may be the best one for the time being.
Residents may soon get a chance to put money where their mouth is – so to speak – by joining a new citizens’ budget committee.
County Commissioner Fred Hawkins Jr. suggested giving concerned residents a chance to better use the county money in the upcoming budget process by creating a new committee.
Hawkins envisions a five to seven-member board of residents who can question and critique the fiscal year 2020 budget as it’s being developed this summer. Each county commissioner would appoint one resident, and the chair of each political party would also have a seat at the table. The citizen group would then bring budget recommendations back to county commissioners for review.
For those residents who believe the money can be found in the budget to fix transportation, we hope a line forms at the county administration to get on this committee if it comes to fruition. Now is not time to sit on the sidelines. Something needs to be done with our roads. Doing nothing is not an option. If there is money available in the budget, we certainly hope residents and county officials can work together to find it.
The county adopts its new fiscal year budget Oct. 1, with staff holding regular meetings throughout the summer to determine spending priorities and cuts.
Commissioner Brandon Arrington also proposed a citizens’ transportation task force to explore options on how to fix traffic and make infrastructure upgrades.
Hawkins also suggested the county look at an audit committee set up by the school board a couple years ago for ideas.
There is a lot of work to be done. The call for public service has been floated. We hope if the opportunity arises, the community soundly responds and helps put a bright future for transportation in gear.