St. Johns County needs $7.7M more a year for roads
County considers gas tax, sales tax to deal with population boom
ST. JOHNS COUNTY, Fla. – St. Johns County needs more than $77 million over the next 10 years to pay for new and better roads as the county tries to keep up with its booming population, officials said.
According to the St. John County communications office, the county needs to expand roads to fight traffic backups that happen daily and to support development.
“We are experiencing traffic congestion in all five of our districts throughout the county, and we have roads that need to be repaired, replaced or rebuilt,” county Communications Director Michael Ryan said.
The county currently pays $12 million to $14 million a year for road maintenance, but it will need about $7.7 million more a year for 10 years to handle the needed improvements, officials said.
“The St. Johns County growth is undeniable -- that we have been growing for the better part of a decade or two,” Ryan said. “We are one of the fastest counties growing in the United States, and as a result of that we are struggling with funding and growth issues related to our infrastructure.”
One idea being floated to help cover the cost is a 5 cent gas tax that would generate about $5.8 million a year.
Other options include a 1 percent additional bed tax on tourists or a 1 percent sales tax on residents and tourists. The bed tax would only generate $1.5 million a year, while the sales tax would generate $23.6 million a year.
The county board of commissioner's task is to figure out just how much taxpayers should pay to ease the county’s growing pains.
“St. Johns County currently has no funding source going forward to address the budget deficit, Hurricane Matthew recovery, or over $270 million in deferred maintenance and capital expenditure needs," Commissioner Jay Morris said in a statement. "The only realistic option we have is to put a sales tax on the ballot. There is no other funding source big enough to pull us out of the hole we are in right now. All we would be doing is putting it on the ballot for the residents to either vote it up or down. If we do nothing but continue to kick the can down the road like we have for the past two years, the next commission will have no choice but to adopt a millage rate increase.”
JoAnne Smith, a 20-year county resident, likes the idea of expanding the county's roads.
“When I moved here, 207 was just one lane on each side," Smith said. "I think it is a lot of people living here in St. Johns County.”
Property owner Blanche Judd said she hopes the growth stops soon.
“The gas tax might be one way to fund expanding roads, but our main concern is the development that we think is happening,” Judd said. “We think that the growth is too much.”
The commissioners will next meet Feb. 7.
Compare the growth in the Northwest part of St. Johns County:
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