ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. – A proposed one-cent sales tax increase in St. Johns County is going to the voters.
County commissioners have approved the proposed tax hike to be placed on the ballot in November.
It passed with a 4-1 vote with commissioner Paul Waldron the lone “no” vote.
Commissioners say they are behind when it comes to infrastructure needs in the fast-growing county and need millions of dollars to deal with traffic issues and improve safety.
If approved, it would raise the sales tax from 6.5 to 7.5 cents for the next 10 years and put money towards those issues.
Not everyone is in favor of the hike.
“We watched you give concessions after concessions, millions here, millions there, why don’t y’all stop?” St. Augustine resident Sherry Badger said during public comment.
But some residents say it’s desperately needed.
“I am for the tax being added to the ballot because we are behind,” said Marty McEachean, president of Creeks Athletic Association.
The county says right now it has about $500 million in infrastructure needs as thousands of new residents flood into the area.
The money would go towards:
- $243 million needed for roads, bridges and transportation infrastructure projects
- $120 million needed for public safety enhancements, including police, fire and rescue
- $88 million for five parks
- $49 million for public libraries
But residents questioned why developers aren’t the ones footing the bill through impact fees. Commission Chair Henry Dean addressed that.
“You will have an opportunity, it’s the American way, to vote up or down on a proposed one-cent increase. But we didn’t just get here today for our failure to adopt a reasonable and fair impact fee. The history is such that they were artificially low, we raised them, we also had tax reform that reduced our revenue,” Dean said.
Ultimately it will be up to the voters to decide on Nov. 8 whether to raise taxes. If it is approved by more than 50% of voters, the tax will take effect on Jan. 1, 2023.
For taxable personal property, the additional one-penny sales tax would only be collected on the first $5,000. The additional sales tax would not apply to certain groceries, prescription drugs, medical products and supplies, or other goods and services exempt from taxation, the county said.
St. Johns County has created a webpage with information about the proposed surtax increase.