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Residents Still Debating Broward's Penny Tax For Transportation Plan

Fort Lauderdale Forum
Caitie Switalski
Broward County Mayor, Beam Furr, presents the specific improvements listed in the county's plans for the sales tax increase Wednesday morning in Downtown Fort Lauderdale.

Voters in Broward County must decide on a one percent sales tax increase to fund transportation improvements. If it passes, the tax will last for 30 years. 

With early voting already underway, the civics group Fort Lauderdale Forum organized a panel of speakers Wednesday morning to hold a public information session about the tax increase - to a crowd of about 30 people.

Traffic light synchronization, new buses and bus routes, and studies for light rail are all on the list of projects that the sales tax increase would fund, if it passes.

Read more: How To Find Your Way Through 105 Possible Questions In South Florida Ballots

The audience debated with panelists, about trust and expense over the 30 years. 

"We're looking at it as a place for finding synergy with affordable housing," Broward County Mayor, Beam Furr, said. about the light rail studies. "So now we need to go talking with all of the cities that these would go through, and see if these are the right places." 

The plan for light rail studies focused on four main areas of the county:

  • Broward Boulevard
  • U.S. 441 and the State Road 7 line
  • Broward Boulevard West Extension
  • University Drive - NOVA Extension 

The tax increase is projected to raise more than $15 billion dollars over the three decades. Furr said some of that could be used to get matching federal dollars in the future for some of the larger projects. 
Read More: What Would You Do With A Penny? Broward Transportation Director Wants To Fund These Projects

Fort Lauderdale's recently fired city manager, Lee Feldman, answered questions about the public's trust in government. He is staying in his role through the end of the year.

"Trust has to be earned," he said. "And I think putting the mechanisms in place to have the oversight will allow for that."

That oversight is an independent board that would handle distributing project money. 

Feldman said a shorter tax period for the tax increase would not have worked. "The 30-year time-frame may seem long, but a 10-year window doesn't get you where you need to be," he said. 

He argued that a 30-year period would allow the county to have a buffer of projects approved, in case of another economic recession.

The Senior Vice President of Administration for Broward College, Thomas Olliff, was also on the panel. He said, most of Broward College's 63,000 students rely on federal financial aid. 

"That means the vast majority of our students are using public transportation to get from campus to campus, to get from their home to the campus," he said. "I will tell you that this transportation system improvement is critical for them."

You can find a complete list of the more than 700 projects the tax would fund, here.

Caitie Muñoz, formerly Switalski, leads the WLRN Newsroom as Director of Daily News & Original Live Programming. Previously she reported on news and stories concerning quality of life in Broward County and its municipalities for WLRN News.