No to cultural, historical and preservation programs

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Volusia County’s Republican Executive Committee voted this week to oppose the extension of two taxes that have produced dozens of developments and conservation projects since 2001.

In 2000, voters approved the Volusia ECHO and Volusia Forever programs, with money to be raised over 20 years. With the programs ending in 2021, supporters convinced Volusia County Council to put them on the ballot for renewal.

“It’s disappointing,” said Pat Northey, chairman of Volusia ECHO / Forever PAC, of ​​the committee’s opposition to programs, “especially since these programs have been audited and the audits are clean. money collected per household is small for great value. “

The two taxes combined cost the owner of a property with an assessed value of $ 100,000 around $ 31 in 2019, and that rate will be lower this year. Using more than $ 82 million, Volusia ECHO has supported nearly 250 projects across the county, while Forever has raised around $ 180 million to raise even more grants and buy and hold over 38,000 acres.

Republican President Paul Deering said ECHO and Forever were created to exist for 20 years and have “done good things”, but that is no reason to automatically pursue it.

The party’s executive committee, at its regular monthly meeting, voted on Tuesday evening after hearing the pros and cons of taxes. “There were voices from both sides,” Deering said. “It wasn’t a slam dunk.”

Other needs – infrastructure such as roads and bridge repairs – have emerged and should be a priority, he said.

“With months of the coronavirus shutdown impacting the livelihoods of individuals and businesses and the impacts on our governments, we need to prioritize a lot of these things right now and separate wants from imperatives,” Deering said. “We must be good stewards of what we have.”

Volusia ECHO / Forever PAC Communications Coordinator Melissa Lammers said Volusia Forever protects the county’s water supply.

“I think a need for clean water is pretty critical,” Lammers said.

Northey said she couldn’t quibble that parks are a ‘want’ rather than a ‘need’, but added: ‘Most people, when defining quality of life, look for parks and recreation. They seek a pleasant environment. “

The “world-class trail network” around Volusia County can be attributed to ECHO grants and is now a tourist attraction, said Northey, a former county council member.

“It doesn’t just take away, it adds value to the community and adds money to the community in the long run,” she said.

The Republicans’ philosophy of a smaller government played into the vote, Deering said.

“Republicans believe that the role of government should be limited in our daily lives and that government exists to provide essential services such as public safety, health, environment, infrastructure,” he said.

Some of ECHO’s grants have been awarded to non-profit organizations. Deering said it was not the “proper role” of government to tax citizens just to hand that money over to organizations that do not pay taxes for projects that “the private sector is more than capable” of supporting. .

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