With each Volusia County city set to receive a portion of revenue if voters approve a half-cent sales tax increase in May, most have penned a priority list showing what road construction, water quality and flood control projects residents can expect to see over the next 20 years.

A few, though — Ormond Beach, Holly Hill, Pierson — are still working on theirs.

With mail-in ballots going out in May, some residents feel like they should already know how an estimated $42 million a year will be spent. But a leader of the sales tax initiative urges patience, saying it's more important for cities to ensure their lists meet the wishes of their residents.

"I’m proud of the cities that think they need more public input and are taking the time to get it," said Joe Yarbrough, the recently retired city manager in South Daytona who has been coordinating cities' efforts on the sales tax drive for more than a year.

Yarbrough expects all of the lists to be turned over to the county by next week. At that point, the county will compile them all into one interactive list, with a map, that will be posted on its website and presented during informational town hall meetings that are planned throughout the month.

The News-Journal has compiled an unofficial list of projects that can searched by city or street name.

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"Everyone that has a stake in this, which is all of us, needs to weigh in," Yarbrough added. "If it takes a little longer to make sure they are heard, I think it’s the right thing to do."

Mike Scudiero, an Ormond Beach resident and political consultant, said with the county and cities discussing this proposed tax since 2017, they could have gotten a final list before voters much sooner. He mentioned that when the School District set out in 2000 to convince voters an extra sales tax was needed to build new schools, they had a list out to the public six months before the vote. They did it the same way in 2014 when that sales tax was renewed for another 15 years.

"This is concerning," said Scudiero. "Time is ticking. These ballots are going to go into the mail in another six weeks and you're basically asking the voters to buy a car without telling them what kind of car they are buying."

Ormond Beach Mayor Bill Partington said residents are essentially getting to pick out that car by participating in a survey posted on his city's website that closes later this week.

"We are really trying to connect with our residents and get as much feedback for this as possible," Partington said. "This has been a great opportunity to reach out and get feedback from folks and help us really determine what the biggest projects are for our residents. Citizen engagement is more important than ever."

If it's approved the extra sales tax money would be split among the county and cities based on population. Volusia County, which is responsible for maintaining the most miles of roads, would receive nearly half of the money, with Deltona and Daytona Beach receiving the next-largest amount at 11 percent and 8 percent, respectively.

Daytona Beach Manager Jim Chisholm did not return a phone call seeking comment about the status of the city's priority list. The city's public information officer, Susan Cerbone, said the city is proposing spending about $46.4 million on neighborhood streets, about $15 million on creating new sidewalks on neighborhood streets which currently do not have them and about $13 million on a phased flood-control drainage project to alleviate flooding in prone areas, Cerbone said, adding that a formal project list will be sent to Volusia County by the end of the week.

Smaller cities like Daytona Beach Shores, Orange City, Oak Hill, Holly Hill and South Daytona would all receive less than 2 percent of the overall revenue from the sales tax.

City and county officials contend an extra sales tax is the only way to afford much-needed infrastructure improvements at a time when other revenue sources haven't kept up with growth and rising construction costs.

A sales tax hike is also the only way to ensure tourists, like the ones in town for Bike Week, contribute to maintaining the roads they ride upon. And a local option sales tax is the only sales tax that is guaranteed to stay in the county where it’s collected.

That’s why 61 out of 67 counties have a sales tax rate that is higher than 7 percent. The state sales tax rate is 6 percent, though counties can adopt local option taxes of up to 2.5 percent. Volusia’s is 6.5, with a half-cent going to the school district to support infrastructure. The rest goes to Tallahassee, where it’s dispersed among counties based on population size.

Prominent business leaders with the CEO Business Alliance, such as Hyatt Brown of Brown & Brown insurance and Jim France, the CEO of NASCAR, are among the tax's supporters. They are the largest contributors to a political action committee called Volusia Citizens for Better Roads and Clean Water that was formed early last year. That committee is paying for a consultant to offer advice during the campaign. They will also fund educational and advertising materials to amp up support for the tax.

Read: Volusia business leaders pour money into sales tax push

[Read: Volusia leaders hear advice on sales tax messaging]

If approved, Volusia would join Broward and Hillsborough as counties to successfully adopt a sales tax for transportation in the past year. Osceola County will also ask voters in May to approve a tax for roads. A special election will cost Volusia taxpayers $488,000. Ballots can be returned via mail or dropped off at city halls.

The county's project list includes $762 million worth of road and water projects. The list from cities, thus far, includes 168 road projects totaling $415 million, 98 water projects totaling $218 million and 214 "other" projects — including sidewalk construction and dirt road paving, among others — totaling $112 million. Some projects appear on both lists. City and county officials note that the lists are subject to change based on input ahead of the election, and during the tax's 20-year lifespan. 

 

"I expect it to be evolving, nothing is static," said Yarbrough. "One thing is for certain — everyone is getting the opportunity to provide input."

Learn more at News-Journal town halls

Want to learn more about Volusia County’s proposed half-cent sales tax to fund infrastructure needs? Consider this your invitation to a series of town hall meetings The News-Journal is moderating this month. Both city and county officials will be on hand to answer your questions and hear concerns. Each meeting starts at 6 p.m.

• March 19: Sanborn Center, 815 S. Alabama Ave., DeLand, in collaboration with the DeLand Chamber of Commerce.

• March 20: Brannon Center, 105 S. Riverside Drive, New Smyrna Beach, in collaboration with the Southeast Volusia Chamber of Commerce.

• March 21: The Center at Deltona, 1640 Dr. M.L.K. Blvd., Deltona, in collaboration with the West Volusia Regional Chamber of Commerce.

• March 25: Riverside Pavilion, 3431 S. Ridgewood Ave., Port Orange, in collaboration with the Port Orange Chamber of Commerce.

• March 26: Ormond Elementary School, 100 Corbin Ave., Ormond Beach, in collaboration with the Ormond Beach Chamber of Commerce.

• March 27: Daytona State College’s Advanced Technology Center, 1770 Technology Blvd., Daytona Beach, in collaboration with the Daytona Regional Chamber of Commerce.