By Erika Webb
November's general election seems a long way off, but the August primary looms and the Volusia County Department of Elections employees are preparing for a busy season.
The Volusia County School Board Feb. 25 voted to place a half-cent sales tax extension on the Aug. 26 primary ballot.
"The board-appointed Citizens' Capital Needs Committee for half cent extension concluded its work, after five months of meetings, in creating and recommending a capital projects list," according to a Jan. 28 meeting agenda.
The half-cent sales tax program will expire in December 2016.
If voters agree, the extension will go into effect in 2017 and remain for another 15 years.
The committee has identified capital needs in three areas: security, technology and facilities, according to information from the school board.
Last week the committee met to begin planning and preparing how to provide information on the half-cent extension to the public.
"The revenue from a sales tax for school districts can only be used for capital needs and will benefit every school in the district," Superintendent Dr. Margaret Smith reported at the board meeting March 11.
During the first half-cent sales tax program, approved by voters in 2001 and implemented in 2002, an oversight committee met regularly to review progress and at the end of the program stated the district had kept its promise to taxpayers.
If approved by voters the extension -- half a penny on every dollar spent for taxable goods -- would generate $480 million in revenue for capital outlay.
Nearly half the money generated from the discretionary sales surtax -- $234 million -- would be used for facility improvements, according to the capital projects list.
Replacing five schools -- Chisholm Elementary, Pierson/Seville Elementary, George Marks Elementary, Tomoka Elementary and Deltona Middle -- would account for $111 million.
Technology upgrades for all schools would amount to $135 million of generated funds.
Security enhancements in the amount of $45 million for all schools and buses may include: cameras, cypher locks, an electronic lock system, fencing, impact resistance window laminate, panic buttons, ridership verification and accountability system, school visitor management system.
A $15 million allotment would be for track resurfacing/replacement and athletic fields at all high schools.
Science classroom remodeling at all middle schools would garner $8 million.
"An oversight committee will be appointed to assure the projects identified in the extension are accomplished," Dr. Smith noted in her report. "It is not a new tax, but rather extends what is currently in place and approximately 30-40 percent of it is paid by (visitors) and tourists."
Four Volusia County Council seats, nine mayoral seats and 40 city commission seats are up for election, according to Supervisor of Elections Anne McFall.
As many as 15 circuit judge seats could be open as well.
"There are four open seats drawing an interest," Ms. McFall said.
So far, four candidates have filed for the County Council At Large seat including, Deltona City Commissioner Webster Barnaby, incumbent Joyce Cusack, Roy Johnson and District 5 County Councilwoman Pat Northey.
Two have submitted paperwork to run for the District 1 seat: incumbent Pat Patterson and Voloria Manning.
District 3 candidates thus far include incumbent Deb Denys, John Calache and David Machuga.
At present the District 5 seat being vacated by Councilwoman Northey will be vied for by West Volusia Hospital Authority Commissioner Andy Ferrari, Rich Gailey, Deltona City Commissioner Fred Lowry Jr. and Donald Mair.
Incumbent Diane J. Smith and Melody Johnson will run for the Volusia County School Board District 5 seat, and incumbent Stan Schmidt and George Trovato will compete for District 3.
John M. Hill and Donald Sarro Jr. are seeking the District 1 school board seat of Candace Lankford, who is not running for re-election.
Qualifying ends June 20 and Ms. McFall said, in July, 40 temporary employees will be brought in to help.
Prior to the general election about 20 county employees are temporarily reassigned by the county manager to assist in the elections department.
On Election Day, Ms. McFall said, 15 to 20 sheriff's deputies are dispatched to aid the process.