The Collier County Commission set the table for a possible tax increase by voting to approve a referendum that would be held on November 6 of next year.
Voters would be asked to approve a one cent sales tax that would last seven years and be used to fund a variety of infrastructure projects. The plan was initially suggested by the Naples Chamber of Commerce who were looking for ways to help the county raise funds for mental health, affordable housing, and workforce training. Chamber President Michael Dalby said that the organization conducted multiple poles and focus groups when formulating the proposal.
“People realize there is a need to fund certain projects that went above and beyond the normal day to day operation of the county,” said Dalby. “Projects that had been delayed because of the recession, projects that needed to be addressed now because we as a community felt like these are important.”
The ability of the sales tax to draw funding from tourists was key point for Dalby who said it would allow the government a way to pay for infrastructure projects with revenue generated by people who are using the county’s resources but not paying traditional taxes.
The tax would bring in an estimated $70 million annually, $10 million of which would be split between the cities in the county. The remainder would go to fund items including bridge replacements, making repairs to law enforcement facilities, and building Big Corkscrew Island Regional Park. While the commission approved a tentative project list, a separate ordinance would have to be passed to actually lock in the amount allocated to each project.
Commissioner Bill McDaniel let the other members of the board know that he could not support the referendum for an additional tax to accelerate the completion of projects that he believed would already eventually be funded by traditional means.
“I heard in the presentation from our staff that these capital necessities that we are being told we have, can and will be funded through regular programming sources without a tax increase to our electorate,” said McDaniel. “This is a tax increase, again, on our electorate that’s already been designated as cost burdened.”
The sales tax referendum was framed by Commissioner Andy Solis as a way for the county to diversify its revenue streams and be less dependent of property based taxes.
“Just like a financial advisor would never recommend that you put all of your money in to one stock, this to some extent is a diversification of the revenue streams that the county lives off of,” said Solis.
The measure passed with a 4-1 vote with McDaniel dissenting.
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