Q. What is Wild Spaces and Public Places?
A. On November 8, 2016, Alachua County, Florida voters approved “Wild Spaces and Public Places (WSPP),” a one-half percent sales tax to be collected in Alachua County from January 1, 2017 to December 31, 2024, to acquire and improve environmentally sensitive lands and to create, improve and maintain parks and recreational facilities. A share (35.78%) of the proceeds of the sales tax will be distributed to the City of Gainesville, Florida in accordance with an interlocal agreement established between Alachua County and the City of Gainesville. The ballot language calls for citizen oversight and independent audit.
Q. What is the difference between Wild Spaces and Public Places?
A. The “Wild Spaces” part of the program will restore the ability to protect water and land resources that have been identified as high priority projects through the Alachua County Forever (ACF) Program. First approved in 2000, ACF uses an objective ranking system based on criteria related to water resource protection, plant and wildlife habitat quality, social and human criteria such as provision of recreation values, and ease of management and acquisition. Properties to be protected can be nominated using a one-page form. Properties can only be purchased from willing landowners who wish to sell.
The “Public Places” part of the program will implement park and facility improvements as well as new public recreation locations in each of the county’s cities as well as at existing county parks.
Q. How were the project lists for Public Places developed?
A. The City of Gainesville adopted its parks, recreation and cultural facilities project lists through open, public meetings over a period several months during the master planning process which resulted in two plans being adopted; the Parks, Recreation and Cultural Affairs (PRCA) PRCA Vision 2020 Master Plan and the comprehensive cultural affairs master plan titled the 352Arts Roadmap.
Q. How can we find out about projects near us?
A. The City of Gainesville’s proposed project list includes improvements for Active Parks, Nature Parks, Cultural Facilities as well as Trails. It is a well-rounded plan which addresses needs and opportunities throughout the entire City. The list was created through an extensive amount of public outreach during the creation and adoption of the City’s PRCA Vision 2020 Master Plan and the 352Arts Roadmap, a comprehensive plan for arts and culture. You can receive updates on projects at the City of Gainesville’s Wild Spaces and Public Places Project Page. We are also working on getting the projects mapped on an interactive GIS platform so any citizen can see exactly where each project is located and what it would mean to their part of the City.
Q. How much funding is going towards land acquisition and how much funding is going to recreation and parks?
A. It’s likely to be close to a 50/50 split for all of Alachua County. With only a few project-specific exceptions, the nine municipalities (including the City of Gainesville) are proposing that almost all of their funds go toward active recreation, nature parks and cultural facilities; together they receive almost half the funds. The County has listed numerous recreation projects as well, but hasn’t formally set the percentage that would go to parks versus land.
Q. Why a local option sales tax?
A. Several different funding sources were analyzed and evaluated by both the City and the County using a third party expert to conduct polling through the Trust for Public Land Conservation Financing Division. The sales tax was the most appealing by both the City of Gainesville City Commission and the Alachua County Board of County Commission as well by the citizens. A large portion of sales tax (more than 30% it’s estimated) is paid by people who do not live or pay property taxes in Alachua County. Between our status as a regional shopping hub, UF sports and events, Gator Nationals, people driving through on the interstate and so on, a large portion of our sales tax is paid by out of county shoppers and visitors.
Q. How many other counties have a local option sales tax?
A. Of the state’s 67 counties, 9 of them have a 1.5% local option sales tax (including Leon and Miami-Dade, for example); 40 of them have a 1% local option sales tax; 9 have a 0.5% sales tax, and 9 have 0 local option tax. With the passing of Wild Spaces and Public Places in Alachua County we now have a 0.5% local option sales tax.
Q. Who voted for the Wild Spaces and Public Places half cent sales tax?
A. The precincts in the City of Gainesville overwhelmingly supported the one half cent sales tax while many of the more rural areas of Alachua County did not, but all municipalities will receive revenues based upon the State of Florida Default Formula. In one Gainesville precinct the vote was as high as 80.81% in favor of WSPP!