Seminole County has hired Consensus Communications at a rate of $135 an hour to help with a public information campaign on the upcoming sales tax referendum on May 2. Deputy County Manager Nicole Guillet says the public needs to know what they are voting on.
"This is a very important issue for Seminole County, and we want the voters to completely understand what the tax is about, what it is, and what it isn't."
The county is concerned that voters will be misled by opponents of the tax. Nicole Guillet cited early statements that the tax would be used to pay for the operation of SunRail when it will not. She also says the county has no Public Information Officer, so they need outside help.
"We eliminated that position back in 2009, so nobody on staff is an expert on how to get information pushed out to the voting public."
The county has to walk a very fine line though. Using tax dollars to advocate for a ballot issue is against the law, and opponents of the tax are irate over the hiring. Guillet says the county will be careful with the information they disseminate.
"I want to make sure that everybody understands that we intend to comply with the legal constraints under which we have to operate and this will be an informational voter education campaign."
County commissioners never voted on spending up to $50,000 for the consultant, but Guillet says they were briefed on the matter.
"Up to certain limits, the county manager has the authority to approve expenditures. This was at one of the lower levels."
Guillet tells FOX 35 they do not expect to use all $50,000 they are allowed to spend, even at $135 an hour. You can see the entire wish list of projects from the county, cities, and school district by clicking here.