Surtax may fund two new GNV fire stations 

Commissioner Casey Willits
Commissioner Casey Willits
File photo by Seth Johnson

The Gainesville City Commission accepted the 2023 infrastructure plan with a slate of projects already underway on the Wild Spaces Public Places side of the surtax.  

The plan outlines how to use the city’s portion of new infrastructure surtax voters passed in November. It came days after Alachua County listened to two 10-year plans on allocating the funds

Gainesville will receive an estimated $17.4 million per year, with half supporting the already existing Wild Spaces Public Places program and the other half addressing affordable housing, roads, fire stations and other public infrastructure.   

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Phil Mann, special adviser for infrastructure and capital projects, said Gainesville needs to brand the other half of the surtax instead of just the non-WSPP portion. He envisioned a logo and program name that the city can use to mark its projects.  

Commissioner Casey Willits supported the idea. He said citizens will be able to see where that half of the surtax has been used and be more likely to back extending the program in 10 years.  

“I start to think that we shouldn’t spend a cent without a real clear logo on it,” Willits said.  

City staff presented a list of projects the other half could finance. Mann said staff compiled the list based on neighborhood engagement workshops, a capital needs assessment, a parks and recreation master plan, Gainesville Fire Rescue (GFR) station master plan and a pavement management plan. 

Mann’s list includes two property purchases and designs for seven others:  


  • Phalanx Building for GFR Administration, Safety and Training Bureaus 
  • Property for GFR Station 9 in the southwest 


  • SW Public Safety Center / Fire Station #9 
  • Phalanx Building Renovations 
  • Road repair on North Main Street from NW 39th Avenue to NW 53rd Avenue 
  • Road repair on NE 9th Street from University Avenue to NE 23rd Avenue 
  • East Side Fire Station 
  • Public Works Hurricane Hardened Building 
  • GPD Property and Evidence Building 

Mann said the projects overlap with some of the city’s other projects.  

GFR needs a new fire station on the east side of town to support the overworked Fire Station #3. The city’s new Eastside Health and Economic Development Initiative (EHEDI), in collaboration with Alachua County and UF Health, provides land for a new station off Hawthorne Road.  

Built in 1960, Fire Station #3 is located next to Citizens Field and the Martin Luther King Jr. Multipurpose Center and needs repairs. The city has already started studies at turning that area into an Eastside recreation complex, and Mann said moving the station will allow more room.  

The city built Fire Station #9 as a temporary structure. Located next to Walmart in Butler Plaza, Mann said the station needs a permanent home.  

Phil Mann
Courtesy of city of Gainesville Phil Mann

Plus, the city owns few properties in the southwest and no public meeting spaces. Mann said the city can combine the new southwest fire station with a police outpost and publicly available meeting space.  

Commissioners also placed emphasis on using the funds for affordable housing. 

Mann explained the limitations set by state law. The city can only use a maximum of 10% of its infrastructure surtax on affordable housing and must own and maintain the property. The law prevents Gainesville from buying a parcel and giving it to a housing nonprofit.  

“If we set [10%] aside, I think that still gives us plenty of opportunities while we figure out the legality and the gray areas,” Saco said.  

Commissioners also discussed the details of splitting a portion of Alachua County’s surtax funds with the other eight municipalities.  

Alachua County has set aside $12 million from its overall surtax revenue for joint projects with cities. Of the $12 million, at least half will go to just Gainesville—$3 million for WSPP and $3 million for other projects.  

The other $6 million will be split among the nine municipalities, again with half to either side of the surtax. But the cities can’t decide on a formula to divvy up the money.  

Commissioner Bryan Eastman attended a meeting with leaders from the other eight cities. Possibilities ranged from giving each city one-ninth of the $6 million to splitting based on population, giving Gainesville the vast majority, and some city leaders suggested cutting Gainesville out entirely because of the portions already allocated to the city.  

Eastman said Gainesville should receive the $6 million just for itself and a portion of the other $6 million. Other commissioners on Thursday agreed.  

“We have the population here, so dollars spent in Gainesville will go a long way toward the actual people who live here,” Eastman said. “What matters is actual people who are helped by dollars.” 

He also noted that the program is a grant match. The cities put up a set amount of WSPP dollars and Alachua County matches it from the $12 million pool. Eastman said some of the small cities don’t even have the WSPP funds to match the county.  

LaCrosse will get 0.1% of the total funds; Micanopy will get 0.18%; Waldo will get 0.25%; Archer will get 0.32%. If the full-cent surtax were collected in 2022, those cities would receive $51,157; $86,643; $124,072 and $155,932 respectively.  

Gainesville commissioners also argued that the majority of the surtax came from Gainesville residents and that residents from other cities visit Gainesville to use its parks and amenities.

Willits also said Gainesville can use the money more efficiently than other cities.  

“I do know that getting zero is, to me, completely unacceptable out of the $3 million,” Willits said about one half. 

If the cities can’t decide, Alachua County will step in to manage the funds and might return to a bid system like it did in 2016, Eastman said.  

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What are the city and county doing with the property tax money and fire assessment money they already take from residents? Shouldn’t they use that to build fire stations? It’s sad to see such poor financial management.


Okay…I’ll bite…WHERE is this “surtax” money coming from? Exactly WHERE are our taxes going up?? Reporter did a splendid jobove trumpeting all the wonderful things that are being done with my money but he (intentionally?) is not telling me where that money is coming from, what tax, where???

J.C. Derrick

Hi, the second sentence of the story notes the money is coming from the infrastructure surtax voters approved in November. There is a link in that sentence which takes you to more information.


I like the way you guys crosslink your stories. It comes in really handy.

J.C. Derrick

You’re welcome! Thanks for the feedback.


When a city has to pass additional taxes to keep up with its infrastructure, that could be a big sign that either the monies already coming in are being spent incorrectly. Or, maybe city administration has become too large and is unsustainable.

OR, maybe there are too many within the city that aren’t contributing to its financial wellbeing.