Jacksonville councilman proposes sales tax increase

Councilman Bill Gulliford proposes a one-half cent sales tax hike

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A proposal introduced at Tuesday night's City Council meeting would raise the sales tax in Jacksonville by one-half cent to fund the city's Police and Fire Pension Fund.

City Councilman Bill Gulliford proposed a half-cent sales tax hike to help the city fill the $1.6 billion deficit in the Police and Fire Pension Fund.

The local sales tax in Duval County is currently 7 percent, meaning the increase would take the tax to 7.5 percent.

Mayor Alvin Brown's office plans to raise money for the pension a deal with the JEA, but Gulliford said he doesn't trust that plan and thinks a sales tax hike is the way to go.

"We're to the end of the line. We keep talking, and every day this thing gets more onerous," said Gulliford. "The problem gets bigger and bigger. We have limited options. I have serious questions about that."

Many on the City Council said they felt backed into a corner as they try to find a way to cover a $40 million annual contribution required by the mayor's pension deal.

Under Gulliford's proposal, the city would have to raise property taxes for one year because it would take a year for the sales tax to start generating revenue. Gulliford estimates a half-cent sales tax increase would generate $60 million.

After that year, the council would roll back the property tax increase.

"Tell me what other solution is out there, because I don't know what it is," said Gulliford.

The proposal was news to other members of the council, including Lori Boyer.

"It's something that we considered a number of months ago, and when I was walking door to door," said Boyer. "Almost everybody says they would rather have a sales tax than another property tax increase."

Boyer said that between the pension deal and the collapse of Liberty Street, the city needs money. She believes they've cut everywhere they can.

If the council approves the plan, Gulliford hopes it would go on the ballot as soon as May.

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