Marion County Penny Sales Tax up for renewal on the November ballot
OCALA, Fla. (WCJB) - On November 3rd voters won’t just be selecting their elected office holders, they will be deciding on policy too.
In 2016 the Penny Sales Tax was approved by 55 percent of Marion County voters, to fund public safety improvements and major road projects throughout the county.
Now it’s up for renewal and will be listed on the November ballot as the ‘One Percent (%) Public Safety and Transportation Infrastructure Sales Tax Referendum.’ If residents vote ‘yes’ the sales tax would be renewed for another four years starting on January 1, 2021 and ending on December 31, 2024.
“We’ve been paying seven percent sales tax in Marion County since 2016 and this will just allow us to continue to do that and that additional penny comes back to Marion County. It is not shared with other counties,” Marion County Commission Chairman Kathy Bryant said.
Over the past four years the sales tax has generated roughly $167 million dollars, allowing for several equipment upgrades and construction of new facilities for first responders, including the construction of the “Rolling Greens” fire station.
Through the Penny Sales Tax, Marion County Fire Rescue also received nine new fire engines, a ladder truck, two new water trucks, three new brush / grass trucks, two new hazmat vehicles, 30 new ambulances, 12 new staff / utility vehicles, 300 new breathing apparatus systems, and 85 new though book laptops.
The Marion County Sheriff’s Office received 315 new patrol cars, a helicopter, 349 new ballistic vests, 130 new vests for MCSO SWAT team members, construction of a new evidence building and improvements to the office’s information technology.
As for the county’s roads, 21 different road projects have been completed in addition to several other Public Safety Communication updates, and if the sales tax is renewed by voters there are several more projects ready to be implemented, including work to improve Animal Services. More information on potential Penny Sales Tax projects can be found at marionsalestax.org.
“We have 13 more projects slated and one of the ones that I’ll key in on which is going to make a major improvement for people that have to travel from 484 all the way to 27, will be the 49th Avenue Project and that is a Penny Sales Tax project. It’s going to keep people off of I-75 and give them a way to commute that north south commute across the county effortlessly,” Bryant added.
And it’s not just residents who will pay into the tax, it’s everyone who spends money in Marion County.
“Everybody that passes through places a demand on our roads and on public safety and so this allows us to have a contribution from everyone who uses those services. 30 percent of this is paid by people who come into Marion County and don’t live here,” Bryant said.
And it’s something that business leaders said they want residents to strongly consider voting for.
“In fact we’re encouraging people to please vote yes to renew the penny and it’s important for people to recognize, it’s not a new tax, we’re not increasing a tax, it’s just maintaining what we have because we want to continue to see investments made in our roads and building new roads and maintaining roads and to make sure our first responders have the tools they need to keep us all safe,” President and CEO of the Ocala / Marion County Chamber and Economic Partnership Kevin Sheilley said.
The Penny Sales Tax can only be used to fund infrastructure projects and will not go towards anyone’s salaries or other recurring costs.
If the sales tax is renewed, an estimated $196 million dollars is expected to be generated to fund even more public safety and infrastructure improvements.
But the county has received some backlash from residents about the renewal.
On the Marion County Facebook page, some residents simply wrote ‘vote no’ while others like Marc Halcomb wrote, “Already voted no. It is clear that none of the money is being spent wisely when I have to swerve and dodge potholes on a road that hasn’t been properly maintained in well over a decade.”
He commented several times on the Facebook posts about the sales tax renewal, “A penny here, a penny there. How about you learn how to budget our tax dollars better rather than tax us more? I will vote no on any more future tax increases, especially when the main road in my neighborhood is full of potholes, and every couple of months the county comes out and puts pothole patch in them that washes out a week later when it rains again.”
Another resident who posted on the Marion County Facebook page, Laura Doerfler wrote, “NO on the tax. You tax us enough. What about all the money the schools didn’t use? No on any more taxes.”
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