WALTON COUNTY, Fla. (WMBB) — Supporters of a one-cent sales tax in Walton County are making their push before election day next week.
Some believe the controversial referendum is catching heat because county commissioners are backing the plan.
Supporters of the tax want voters to understand why city leaders decided to put the tax on this year’s ballot before those voters make their final decision.
“This referendum started with the Walton County county commissioners, the councils from the City of Freeport, City of DeFuniak, City of Paxton came together for one joint meeting,” Former Freeport City Manager Charlie Simmons said. “That’s never been done before to talk about the transportation infrastructure for Walton County.”
That meeting took place in March.
Simmons said they unanimously agreed to the language in the referendum.
During that meeting, they also formed a transportation advisory committee which consists of a council member from each city and two commissioners.
The committee’s job is to vet all transportation projects and prioritize the county’s needs.
“We’ve got $500 million worth of projects that we know we need,” DeFuniak Springs Council Member Anthony Vallee said. “We’ve been talking about it for years, if not decades. Some of them are simple things that are in your neighborhood like sidewalks, simple things like traffic lights, signal coordination.”
When deciding how to vote, Simmons believes residents should be focused on transportation needs, not how they feel about county commissioners.
“This referendum is about where we live, work and play every day of our lives in Walton County, it is about safe routes to schools, it is about safe roads that our kids and our grandkids are going to learn to drive on. That’s what this referendum is about,” Simmons said.
Simmons also said tourists will pay 75% of the tax.
It will not be applied to groceries or medicine.
If voters don’t pass the tax, Simmons said it could lead to higher millage rates, placing the burden on residents.
“At the end of the day, county commissioners are going to come and go, but these transportation needs are always going to be here and we’ve got to have ways to fund it,” Simmons said.
To view that March meeting discussing the referendum click here.