Walton voters to decide on half-cent sales tax

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DEBORAH WHEELER @WaltonSunDeb

DEFUNIAK SPRINGS — The proposed half-cent sales tax initiative will be decided by Walton County voters on Aug. 28.

At Tuesday’s Board of County Commissioners meeting, commissioners voted unanimously to place the sales tax initiative on the 2018 primary ballot.

District 5 Commissioner Tony Anderson said the tax could generate $50-$60 million — or more — over its five-year duration. Funds would be used to help fund much-needed roads, bridges and other infrastructure.

“We are 100 years behind on infrastructure, and we are No. 16 or 17 in the nation as the fastest growing county in the nation,” Anderson said. “And 65 percent of this tax will be paid by tourists.”

County Manager Larry Jones said that if commissioners want to move forward, the board needed to decide on the timing and ballot language was going to be.

“This has been on our radar for awhile and we are seeking direction as we move forward,” Jones said. “If we are going to take any action this year, we need to move to the next step to support and adopt ballot language.”

The money collected from the tax would be in addition to money allocated in the budget for use for bridges and roadways. Commissioners have been given a list of road projects that need attention.

“We have 50-plus projects available to use the money on, and it will take 50 years to get those 50 miles of roadway done,” said District 1 Commissioner Bill Chapman. “There are in excess of 200 bridges that need attention, and two in my district need to be replaced.”

Chapman said the earlier election mad more sense since the general election ballot would already be filled with proposed constitutional amendments.

Only one person at the meeting spoke in opposition to the action.

“Paving roads in Florida is bad,” said resident Coy Bowman. “It takes away absorption. You enact taxes for things we don’t need.”

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