FREEPORT, Fla. (WMBB) — A local doctor shared his two cents on the proposed one cent sales tax in Walton County Tuesday night.
The measure is on the ballot for the upcoming general election. If passed, it would raise sales tax in Walton County to 8 percent — the highest in the state.
The proposed tax is expected to bring in $1.2 billion dollars over the next 30 years.
“I mean we are just so stinking rich,” said Dr. Jon Ward. “I mean we should have gold lined streets.”
Ward gave a presentation on Tuesday at the Freeport Republican meeting.
During his talk, Ward questioned the reasoning behind the proposed one cent sales tax.
Ward said Walton County has the second highest per capita property tax levy in the state. Those levies have seen a 137 percent increase in Walton County over the last 10 years.
With the current 3.6363 millage rate, that would give Walton County $114 million in property taxes alone.
“I would really, really, really like to know what is happening and where that money is going,” Ward said.
Walton County already has a one cent sales tax, but an increase would give the county the highest sales tax in the state.
“In Walton, our one cent goes fully to county,” Ward said. “Nothing to schools so that’s 100 percent county. The one cent. If we go to that second cent like I said, we’re going to have the highest sales tax in the state. That’s an 8 percent sales tax.”
But in the Walton County portion of Ponce De Leon, Ward said it would be 8.5 percent.
“You’re getting to California levels then,” Ward said.
Ward said passing the two-cent sales tax would double the current per capita sales tax revenue in Walton County.
“We’d go north of 800 [dollars] which would put us number one so the county commission would be like ‘We’re number 1! We’re number 1!'” Ward said.
Ward also mentioning Walton County’s tourism development tax revenue. Walton beats out Orange County — the home of the happiest place on earth.
“We get more TDC money than Mickey Mouse,” Ward said. “Orange County which is Orlando you know the huge convention center they’re charging all those people TDC but per capita for the number of people who live here, we get 2.5 to 3 times more than Orange County in tourist development revenue.”
The purpose of the proposed tax is for infrastructure, but Ward said the county has consistently decreased transportation spending.
“They decreased spending on transportation by over 10 percent,” Ward said. “Why would you do that? They say, ‘We’re growing, we have needs for transportation, we have needs for roads.'”
Ward also called attention to the number of full-time employees at the county.
“When I looked at county administration, here in Walton County, you got 15 people assigned to county administration and in Bay you’ve got six,” Ward said. “Code enforcement you got 41 people enforcing code in Walton County. Bay County has 11.”
He also pointed out the Walton County Sheriff’s Office large staff.
“Bay County has over twice the population of Walton County yet the sheriff’s office in Bay County has 516 full time employees and the sheriff’s office here has 563,” Ward said,
Ward said even after the referendum vote, people need to continue to ask questions about where taxpayer money is being spent.
“We need to start going to county commission meetings and asking these questions because I don’t think it’s really happened, and it usually takes something where they’re asking something outrageous to wake people up,” Ward said.
There will be another public meeting about the proposed one-cent sales tax on Thursday at Horse Power Pavilion in Freeport.
Editor’s note: The 516 employees at BCSO are mainly law enforcement. WCSO’s 563 person staff includes Fire, EMS and Animal Control in addition to law enforcement, dispatch and jail staff.