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Penny wins in terms of cash

Tax advocates raised far more money than their opposition, but voters decide today which side gets its way.

Published March 9, 2004

It's time to give your two cents' about the Penny.

The polls are open today from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. for voters to cast their ballots on the proposed Penny for Pasco, a 1-cent-on-the-dollar sales tax hike to build and expand schools, improve roads, buy conservation land and pay for a slew of city projects.

Democrat, Republican, independent ... it doesn't matter. All Pasco voters can weigh in on this one. Just remember to bring your driver's license, or another photo ID, and your voter registration card.

If you're wondering where to vote: Check the precinct information on your voter registration card. Or call the Supervisor of Elections Office. They can be reached in west Pasco at 847-8162, central Pasco at 929-1288 or east Pasco at 521-4302.

In the past few weeks, groups for and against the tax increase have poured their resources into spreading their message. The latest campaign finance reports, released Monday, show the two pro-Penny groups have raised a combined $288,610 to date from about 641 donors.

That puts them at an 86-to-1 fundraising advantage over the Citizens Against the Penny for Pasco, who raised $3,356 to date in cash and in-kind contributions from a couple dozen donors.

Sales tax supporters say the contributions show a broad, grass roots effort behind the sales tax proposal. Critics say the support is coming from developers and builders.

In just the past three weeks, the Pasco's Citizen Committee promoting the tax has raised $139,537, according to the reports. That includes the in-kind contribution of six billboards and some large checks from development interests, such as $20,000 from contractor HC Beck Ltd. of Tampa.

Would the tax help builders by raising more money for school and road construction projects? "To an extent, sure," said Chuck Plante, operations manager of HC Beck Ltd.

But he added: "We have a lot of employees that live in Pasco County, so we like to support where our employees live," noting the sales tax projects would relieve crowded schools and improve dangerous intersections.

Allen Altman, co-chair of the Pasco's Citizen Committee, said the contributions come from people who care about the quality of life in Pasco County.

"It's easy to pull out 10 or 20 contributions, but the fact of the matter is we had hundreds and hundreds of contributors, and it truly was a citizens-led, grass roots initiative," Altman said.

Preserve Pasco!, another group supporting the sales tax program to buy environmentally sensitive lands, has raised $44,151 to date, much of it coming in $10, $25 and $50 increments.

The Citizens Against the Penny for Pasco, headed by Ann Bunting, has struggled on the fundraising front. Almost half of its contributions, $1,475, were in-kind copying and mailing costs from Cast-Crete, a Tampa concrete company headed by Hillsborough antitax activist Ralph Hughes. Another $787 came from Bunting's own pocket.

A separate antitax mailing from Wesley Chapel resident Larry Toll, a Cast-Crete employee, did not show up on anyone's contribution lists. Preserve Pasco! leader Jennifer Seney has filed two elections complaints against Toll for the mailing.

- Bridget Hall Grumet covers Pasco County government. She can be reached in west Pasco at 869-6244, or toll-free at 1-800-333-7505, ext. 6244. Her e-mail address is

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