WALTON COUNTY, Fla. (WMBB) — Walton County business owners and locals are sharing their thoughts on the controversial sales tax referendum.

Some believe it is the only way to improve infrastructure in the county.

They said it is the only solution to funding transportation projects.

Walton County commissioners are asking residents to approve a one-cent sales tax, an increase from 7% to 8%.

County officials estimate it will raise an additional $40 million a year.

Local business owner and resident Reynolds Henderson is part of a group called “Better Roads For Walton”.

“We all know infrastructure is a huge problem in this county, but we keep kicking the can down the road. This will begin to collect money if it passes so we can get these projects done to alleviate our traffic problems,” Henderson said. “The traffic, everybody complains about the traffic, but nobody wants to do anything. This is the solution, part of the solution.”

Henderson said the tax is the best solution to completing transportation projects.

“It puts it on the tourists, too,” Henderson said. “We’re going to pay some, but the tourist pays way more. We’re looking at the tourists paying between 65 on the low-end percent and 80% of this. That’s a no-brainer.”

The ordinance regulates how the county can spend the money.

“You don’t like the county commission? Fine. They don’t get their hands on this money,” Henderson said.

Walton Area Chamber President and CEO Megan Harrison said the tax increase is the best option for both the business community and residents.

“We are at an opportunity where what we are voting on is, ‘will this be the best option for funding transportation needs in Walton County?’ we’re not voting on a leadership issue,” Harrison said. “We’re not voting on who the people are around the table. In ten years, that group could look completely different. What we are voting on right now is, ‘is the one cent surtax the best option for funding transportation infrastructure projects in Walton County?’ and I believe wholeheartedly that it is.”

Harrison said the referendum will allow the county to complete a list of projects totaling $85 million.

Critics have pointed out that the county budget has $95 million surplus right now.

“The $95 million includes both cash and non-cash assets including property purchases some of the property purchases were used tourism dollars,” Harrison said. “TDC dollars actually fund new beach access points, properties that will be used for tourism venues that the citizens will also benefit from. And so in actuality, there is a $26 million surplus in the general fund that could be used for transportation projects.”

If approved, Walton County would have the highest sale taxes in the state.

But Harrison said three other counties are considering a similar referendum.

She also said Walton’s five million annual visitors will shoulder the burden, not locals.

“My concern is if it doesn’t pass that we would be looking at a far greater tax burden if there were the need to increase property taxes or the negative impact that could have on the business community as well,” Harrison said.

The referendum will be decided next Tuesday on the November 8 ballot.