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After Ridiculing County’s Sales Tax Revenue Compromise, Palm Coast Now Wants to Deal

| October 16, 2012

Palm Coast City Manager Jim landon at a May meeting with the county and other cities, where Landon and Palm Coast Mayor Jon Netts (to Landon’s left) rejected a county compromise on sharing sales tax revenue. Now Palm Coast wants that compromise re-enacted. County Commissioner Nate McLaughlin, in blue in the distance, sat next to Charlie Ericksen, who was subsequently elected to the commission. (© FlaglerLive)

Palm Coast is discovering a taste for audacity.

Back in spring, the county and the city were renegotiating the terms of their mutual sales tax revenue. The county wanted to increase its share in line with a state-sanctioned formula, rather than with an agreement it had with Palm Coast dating back 10 years. The city said no. The county offered a compromise. It would move toward the state formula over several years. Palm Coast still said no. And did so derisively, as if the county’s proposal wasn’t worth considering.

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Palm Coast’s decision made it impossible for the county to seek a renewal of the half-cent sales tax by referendum: without Palm Coast’s backing, the county commission feared the measure would fail at the polls. But commissioners were not willing to end the sales tax, which represents some $1.8  million a year in revenue for the county. Two weeks ago the county commission enacted a variation on the half-cent sales tax, by a super-majority vote of the commission (that is, a majority of four of its five members), stretched over 20 years. Palm Coast and other cities would still be getting a share of the $4 million in annual revenue, but in accordance with the state’s “default” sharing formula. Palm Coast’s share will fall from $2.6 million a year to $2.1 million a year.

Here’s the audacity part. Earlier today, the Palm Coast City Council agreed to go back to the county and ask if the offer of a revenue-sharing compromise was still on the table.

“Have we settled what we’re going to do knowing we don’t particularly want the default formula right now?” Frank Meeker, one of the Palm Coast City Council members, asked. He spoke of an eight-year “drawdown” that had previously been proposed by the county, meaning an eight-year phase-in of the state formula. The eight-year timeline is inaccurate: Barbara Revels, the county commission chairman, had proposed phasing in the county-favored revenue share over five years.

Meeker is running for a county commission seat—and could end up deciding, as a county commissioner, the very issue he was re-starting as a city council member. (He’s running against Independent candidate Abby Romaine to fill the seat being vacated by Milissa Holland.)

“My understanding is the county approved the small-county half-cent sales tax with the default formula. No drawdown,” Palm Coast Mayor Jon Netts said.

He’s right. The commission approved a resolution that had no exceptions. It would have to approve a separate agreement with Palm Coast if the formula it voted on Oct. 1 were to be changed. Meeker at the time said he was supportive of the county’s vote.

On Tuesday, Meeker suggested “writing a letter or having some discussions with them to see if that is exactly the case. I still believe that there’s a willingness to maybe consider a different option, and that we ought to go back and say that we would be in favor of the eight-year draw-down, or something like that. It doesn’t hurt to contact them. If the answer is no, we’re still stuck with the default formula, but if the answer is yes, we come out in better shape.”

Why did he not take that position in May, when the county first proposed the compromise, Meeker was asked Tuesday evening? “Council wasn’t interested in that position back then,” Meeker said. “I was sticking with my council at the time. We were trying to have a unified front on what we thought was best for the city of Palm Coast. But now, what we’re concerned about, at least what I’m concerned about, is that the only option out there is the default formula, and I think that’s even worse.”

In proposing to reopen discussions with the county, Meeker was borrowing a page from the county’s playbook. Last month, Revels, with most of the commission’s backing, sent a letter to the Palm Coast City Council asking it to rethink placing red-light cameras on State Road 100. The council ridiculed that request.

On Tuesday, Revels was not thrilled by the city’s about-face on the sales tax sharing formula, but—speaking as just one commissioner, and not for the commission—she said the door may be open for some compromise, though not by changing the revenue-sharing formula.

“I have had thoughts that we wanted to assist the cities that were with us on trying to revise the formula, which would be Flagler Beach and Bunnell,” Revels said. Beverly Beach is not really a factor in the revenue sharing. “We would try to work with them on requests that they might have on capital projects. How that would work out with the city of Palm Coast, I don’t know.”

The requests would be dealt with on a project-by-project basis, but the revenue-sharing formula would not change.

“It’ll be interesting in this political season as to whether or not the request is made before or after the election season,” Revels said of Palm Coast’s proposal. “Obviously after November 6, we’re going to have a completely different county commission, so that commission could come up with changes in the formula that they would think would be appropriate.”

Romaine—Meeker’s opponent—saw the Meeker proposal as “politicking.”

“I think that’s all that is, trying to sound reasonable now, putting his reticence into some sort of reasonable action,”  Romaine said, referring to Meeker’s reticence to go along with the original Revels compromise. She called Meeker’s move “startling,” since he and the council were  “so adamant about not engaging in negotiations with the country, trying to work out some kind of arrangement. And now is it a sort of hat in hand gesture, ok, so you’ve made that decision, so let’s try and get back to the negotiating table? Or is he leveraging his position on the city council and potential seat on the commission.”

Meeker’s response Tuesday evening: “Does Abby not understand that there’s give and take between political organizations within the county? That happens all the time. I’m trying to get clarification on something.”

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9 Responses for “After Ridiculing County’s Sales Tax Revenue Compromise, Palm Coast Now Wants to Deal”

  1. Jack Howell says:

    I would have to agree with Mrs. Romaine. No question that Frank Meeker is politicking on this issue. The term “Flip Flop’ comes to mind when looking at Meeker’s voting record. Voters should do their homework on Meeker!

  2. DoubleGator says:

    If this is representative of the “experience” Mr. Meeker proposes to bring to the table, I don’t think we need it. This on top of the red light camera scam, ugh. I think we need prople with new ideas and attitudes to build our community. It appears to me that we are very lucky Independent Abby Romaine is running for the open seat.

  3. PJ says:

    Well said DoubleGator!!!!!!

    Meeker please go away you are a politician.

    You see Mr. Meeker you know your a politician when you have to say something negitive about your opponet and do not offer a solution to the problem other than to delay the issue.

    As far as Palm Coast once again telling the County what to do. Let’s see, I think I can talk many things but the article speaks for it’s self.

    Thank God for Nate McLaughlin and Charlie Erickson folks that will not give in to the worst city management of all time.

    For us folks that live in Palm Coast we are slowly have the quality of life ruined for the need of money.

    Cameras to collect fees from us and the company that makes them to help fund the city. Fees for stormwater. Stop with the fees.

    Manage your city because you simply suck at it.

    The sales tax is not enough for Palm Coast because your over bloated with Management at the top and less employees working in the field. (e.g. clogged stormwarted drains) that you FEE us for.

    Cut you upper management staff merge some departments move people to the field to WORK not cause trouble like the CODE ENFORCEMENT people do, worrying about their jobs.

    So instead of trying to force the county to their knees you should cut you and your upper management payroll and TRY to improve the quality of life who moved here because we wanted to not because of a job like their city manager did.

    I like many others have a wanting stake to be here.

    County don’t back down because Plam Coast is hard up for money……………………

  4. Lulz Daily says:

    Meeker’s response “Does Abby not understand that theres give and take between political organizations within the County?”.

    Hahahahah good one Frank! Just like in May when the County asked for some give and take on this exact same issue and you admonished them for the request. This guy has some knee slappers!!!!

  5. Jim Wingo says:

    Lulz Daily, you took the words out of my mouth.

  6. Maryjoe says:

    “I was sticking with my council at the time. We were trying to have a unified front on what we thought was best for the city of Palm Coast.” Either you agreed with them or you didn’t. If you didn’t then you should have been fighting for what you thought was right for the people of the City.
    Another one not getting my vote. :)

  7. Dawg says:

    Snooze you Loose PC!!! Way to keep your eye on the ball Mr Meeker. Politics doesn’t look to be your calling.

  8. Ben Dover says:

    Too damn bad , Barbara Revels and the county should tell them to go to hell , their greed is so apparent, they should tell them Ok,… we`ll reconsider , but here`s the deal , you don t put the red light camera`s on 100 , and you don t add anymore in Palm Coast , where your scaring people away from shopping and visiting , and make them finally fess up, that the lights are rigged and for producing revenue and have nothing to do with safety.

  9. Frank Meeker says:

    Oh my how some will twist good intentions in an election cycle, and as of last night, even go to great steps in defacing my campaign signs too!

    But back to this issue. Look folks, I asked this question because due to a lack of communication between local governments, it was unclear to me exactly what formula we would using now that the ½ cent sales tax issue has been decided at the county level. Since the potential difference was over 2 million dollars to the citizens I represent (and maybe more), it seemed worth the effort to ask the question and get clarification. Now if the county commission wants to clarify their position and tell the citizens of Palm Coast they are going to keep it all and tell us to use the default formula, fine. Yes, that means some of the Palm Coast capital projects such as bike paths in Seminole Woods addressing safety concerns will have to be placed on the back burner, but Ok, fine, we have an answer. If they come back and say a five, eight or ten year scaling down is still on the table in the spirit of cooperation between local governments that too is fine. I didn’t see any other candidate offering up this issue, and we’re talking about a sizable chunk of change ($$).

    But come on, let’s be fair. Don’t go blasting me for asking a question for the sake of clarification on something of this importance to the citizens of Palm Coast I currently represent and call it a political stunt. Just because I’m leaving council in November doesn’t mean I have to shut down the thinking processes now. I’m just trying to continue providing a service to those that elected me, nothing more.

    Frank J. Meeker, C.E.P.
    Palm Coast City Council, District 2

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