Walton commissioners OK referendum on 1% sales tax hike for road projects

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SANTA ROSA BEACH — Well, OK, maybe. But 30 years?

That was a prevailing public sentiment Tuesday as the Walton County Board of County Commissioners approved the placement of a referendum on the county’s Nov. 8 ballot seeking an additional penny in sales tax to fund transportation projects.

Currently, one penny of local sales tax raises $38 million annually in the county.

If approved by voters, the tax would remain in place for 30 years. That timeline was chosen because, if the levy is approved, the county likely would issue bonds to fund transportation projects. Issuing bonds, which routinely have a payback period — with interest — of 30 years, would give the county money up front for transportation projects.

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In addition to speeding up the projects, having funding readily available for work could speed up Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) projects in the county, like the ongoing widening of U.S. Highway 98. Locally matching FDOT funding for projects could move work in Walton County up on the state priority list, Commissioner Danny Glidewell said in an interview following Tuesday’s vote.

Proposed tax

Still, the timeline for imposition of the tax — 70% of revenue from the additional penny would come from visitors to the county, according to information from Tuesday’s commission meeting — was a cause of concern during public comment on the referendum.

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