Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Santa Rosa 'School' Tax Wins

Santa Rosa County voters "overwhelmingly approved" the half-cent sales tax for Santa Rosa public schools for another ten years in a special election yesterday. As PNJ reporter Carmen Paige reports:
Although only 9.6 percent of the county's more than 100,000 registered voters cast a ballot Tuesday, nearly 77 percent were in favor of extending the half-cent sales tax for an additional 10 years.
The nine percent turnout is reprehensible. But that's just about the only cloud in this otherwise sunny news. In every one of the county's 40 precincts from Pensacola's bedroom commuter 'burg, Gulf Breeze, to more remote blue collar Munson and Jay, a decided majority voted for the tax.

One reason for the favorable vote surely is the lofty reputation of the county's public schools. Several Santa Rosa County elementary, middle, and high schools consistently rank among the best in the state. Santa Rosa citizens are justly proud of that.

Another is the changing demographics of Santa Rosa County. There are more young working couples with children; comparatively fewer double-dipping, pharisaic retirees with a knee-jerk aversion to any tax.

Among the voters reporter Paige managed to corner for a comment, Evelyn Wingate of Milton had what we think is the most telling comment about the Santa Rosa school tax:
"It's done a lot for our school system," she said. "I have three grandchildren in local schools, and I am concerned for the welfare of them and all children."
How about that? Santa Rosa County has voters concerned about someone other than themselves and their own pocketbooks. Soon we may see if Escambia County can say the same, although early signs aren't good.

As Derek Pivnick reported yesterday, it looks like voters in Pensacola Beach, Pensacola, and points north might have another special election in late June.
Escambia County voters once again could be asked to approve a sales tax increase to fund health care for residents who have jobs but can't afford health insurance.
AccessEscambia Inc. officials said they hope to put the item to voters on a June 26 referendum.

Voters rejected the group's proposed sales tax hike for health care in November 2004 by more than 14,000 votes.

The Escambia County Commission on Monday voted 3-0 to let voters decide again whether to increase the county's sales tax by a half-percent with the condition that AccessEscambia pays the estimated $200,000 cost of the special election.
It's more than mildly bizarre to condition a citizens' referendum about a vital issue of public health policy on someone else paying the election expenses. That's carrying the "privatizing" fever way too far and it sends a terrible message about how Escambia county commissioners really view the opinions of the citizens they supposedly represent.

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