Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Poll: Most residents support renewing Penny for Pasco sales tax

This fall, voters likely will be asked if they want to renew the 10-year Penny for Pasco sales tax. And according to a poll commissioned by supporters, the penny enjoys wide support.

The Oct. 23-24 survey asked 400 likely voters in Pasco about their opinion of the tax. According to the results, 78 percent said they would support renewing the tax, while the remaining 22 percent were opposed.

"The numbers are pretty staggering in support," said School Board member Allen Altman, a key backer of the 2004 campaign to enact the tax.

Added County Commissioner Ann Hildebrand, who has reviewed the poll: "People will feel like they've gotten a pretty good bang for their penny."

Overall, the tax is expected to collect roughly $421 million, slightly less than the original estimate. That money is split among school construction, road projects, sheriff and fire equipment, and environmental land acquisition. The cities also get a cut for infrastructure projects.

"If we had to pay for those things without the penny, it never would've happened," she said.

Altman said "it would have been disastrous" for the school system if the sales tax had not been approved, given growth pressures and the state requirement of maximum class sizes.

Besides helping to build 11 new schools, the tax also helped pay for multiple renovations and expansions. "That would've never occurred except for those penny dollars," Altman said.

A key feature of the tax is that the school district first gets a reimbursement for reducing its property tax rate, a sweetener designed to make the proposal more palatable to voters. So far, that cut has lowered property tax bills by at least $67 million.

That cut would stay in place if the tax were renewed, Altman said. But the district would likely increase property taxes if voters reject the tax.

Former assistant schools superintendent Ray Gadd commissioned the poll using $15,000 in leftover cash in a campaign account from 2004. He said that when voters in the survey learned about that scenario, more than half of voters who originally opposed the tax changed their mind.

"Maybe they were holding their nose, but they became supporters," he said.

Gadd said his survey is in line with other polls he has seen from local politicians who also asked about renewing the penny tax. It's also in line with an April online survey of 1,300 residents conducted by the county. That survey showed 72 percent of respondents said they would renew the tax. About 13 percent were opposed and 15 percent had no opinion.

Though the tax expires at the end of 2014, a renewal vote this year would allow the school district and the county to continue to collect revenue without a lapse. Supporters want to schedule a vote on the new penny tax for this November, so they don't face the criticism of 10 years ago when the vote coincided with a low-turnout Democratic presidential primary.

During that campaign, Pasco GOP state committeeman Bill Bunting led the opposition to the tax. This time around, Bunting said he plans to discuss the issue with the Republican Executive Committee.

"If the money's being spent wisely, I think we're okay," he said. "If there's a gray area, I think there's a concern."

He commended supporters for putting the renewal on the November ballot, when all registered voters can cast a ballot. Last time, he said, opponents were "hoodwinked."

Commissioners have until Aug. 1 to forward a proposed ballot question to the Supervisor of Elections. The board would have to hold at least one public hearing on the topic and renew its agreements with the School Board and the cities. Chief Assistant County Administrator Michele Baker said commissioners likely would select which projects to fund with the new revenue.

"We want to be able to demonstrate the need (for the money) and how we were going to use it," she said.

So far, the school district has spent $172 million, including bonds that must be repaid with future penny collections. Of the county portion, an estimated $73 million is set aside for road improvements, $28 million would go toward fire and law enforcement equipment and roughly $35 million is earmarked for environmental lands purchases.

The poll was conducted by Republican polling firm Public Opinion Strategies, based in northern Virginia. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.

Lee Logan can be reached at or (727) 869-6236.

This article has been revised to reflect the following correction: Ray Gadd was a former assistant superintendent of Pasco schools. The original version of this article misstated his title.

Poll: Most residents support renewing Penny for Pasco sales tax 01/07/12 [Last modified: Monday, January 9, 2012 10:15am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. College World Series puts Florida Gators in elite company


    With Tuesday night's College World Series win, the Florida Gators put themselves in rare company.

  2. Pinellas sees spike in infant deaths from unsafe sleeping, and advocates are concerned


    The reports from the Department of Children and Families are tragic: A Pinellas County mother falls asleep on a recliner during an early morning feeding and wakes to find one of her 3-month-old twins unresponsive. Another finds her 6-month-old daughter lying still, a blanket over her head. Another infant is found wedged …

    Advocates are looking to step up their public information efforts this year after reports show a spike in sleep-related infant deaths in Pinellas County. []
  3. Kellyanne Conway warns of health care spin, but then delivers her own in Miami


    On the same day that Senate Republicans were forced to delay a vote on their healthcare legislation because not enough of them wanted to vote for it, White House senior counselor Kellyanne Conway defended the bill in Miami.

    White House senior counselor Kellyanne Conway is welcomed by state Rep. Carlos Trujillo, R-District 105, at the Miami-Dade GOP’s Lincoln Day fundraiser on Tuesday night.
  4. Sign up for our new daily News at Noon email newsletter


    The Tampa Bay Times will soon launch a daily newsletter called News at Noon. You can make sure to be among the first to receive it by signing up now.

  5. New poll shows tight St. Pete mayor's race


    A new poll shows a tight race between former mayor Rick Baker and Mayor Rick Kriseman, currently engaged in the most expensive mayoral race in St. Petersburg history. 

    Former Mayor Rick Baker answers a question during the mayoral candidate forum at Mt. Zion Missionary Baptist Church on Tuesday. Mayor Rick Kriseman is in the foreground.