The Collier County Commission approved the language that will appear on ballots in the fall when voters decide whether to support or oppose a one percent sales tax, despite new opposition from Commissioner Donna Fiala during their meeting Tuesday.
The ordinance moved forward by the commission would govern how the proposed infrastructure tax would be implemented if approved by voters, as well as how the item would appear on the November ballot. The tax would last for seven years before sunsetting and is estimated to raise $70 million per year during that time. The county would receive 90 percent of the funds raised, while the remaining 10 percent would be split between Collier’s three municipalities.
The proceeds from the tax are slated to be used for a number of infrastructure projects including road improvements, upgrades to law enforcement facilities, and improved mental health care.
There has been a lot of talk about the cost of this to the taxpayer. The new ordinance had been amended to include the list of projects so that voters would know how the commission intends for the funds to be spent.
A number of residents spoke during the meeting, raising concerns that the measure represented an unnecessary cost on the taxpayer. Commissioners Burt Saunders defended the referendum, stating that residence would benefit from the much-needed infrastructure upgrades, especially when it came to transportation.
“There is a cost, there’s no question about that, but there is also a benefit.” said Saunders. “A direct benefit to small business, to people who commute to and from work.”
The measure has seen relatively uniform support from the board with the exception of Commissioner William McDaniel, who has repeatedly stated that while he sees the need for infrastructure projects that the county has listed, he does not agree that a sales tax is the best way to secure funding.
To the surprise of some of the other board members, Commissioner Donna Fiala joined McDaniel in opposing the tax. Fiala said that she worried that the tax may hurt area businesses and said that the list of projects could be narrowed to allow for a smaller percentage of taxation over a shorter time.
“I’m not solidly behind this yet, I’m sorry,” said Fiala.
Board Chair Andy Solis told his fellow commissioners that he did not see the measure a imposing a tax on voters but allowing them an option on how they would like to pay for upcoming infrastructure needs.
“This is not the board approving the imposition of this tax,” Solis said.
The ordinance narrowly passed 3-2 with McDaniel and Fiala in the opposition.
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