Sarasota County overwhelmingly agree to 1% sales tax extension

Gulf Gate Public Library, as pictured in 2015, was built using money from Sarasota County's penny sales tax.
Gulf Gate Public Library, as pictured in 2015, was built using money from Sarasota County's penny sales tax.

Sarasota County voters heavily favored an extension Tuesday of Sarasota County's penny sales tax, a levy that will continue to fund local capital improvement projects through at least 2039.

The measure, to keep in place a 1% sales tax on all local purchases under $5,000 on top of the state sales tax of 6%, passed easily with 77.9% voting to approve and 22.1% opposed.

Voters also agreed with 69.2% approving a measure that authorizes Sarasota County to issue bonds to pay for projects funded by the tax. The bonds will allow Sarasota County to start working on surtax projects earlier than it could otherwise.

With the resounding "yes" vote, Sarasota County will be able to use the 1% local option tax to fund the roads and other infrastructure projects it has supported since it was enacted in 1989.

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Ahead of the election results, Greater Sarasota Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Heather Kasten said she expected it would pass. One-quarter of the funding from the tax goes to the Sarasota County school district, and the rest gets divided between the county and its four municipalities for infrastructure.

The city of Sarasota, for example, is using funds to replace some police department vehicles, for amenities at the future Bobby Jones nature park and more. According to the county, about a quarter of the penny sales tax revenue is generated by tourists.

"The opportunity we have for visitors to our area help us to build our roads and help us build capital projects makes a difference," Kasten said.

Before Tuesday, the surtax has been approved three other times. It first passed in 1989 and was extended in 1997 and 2007. If the measure had failed, the current tax extension would have expired at the end of 2024.

In 2007, county voters who said they didn't like the extra 1% tax told the Herald-Tribune they still planned to vote for it. One resident, Michael O'Donnell, said that he didn't like how it was advertised as a "penny" tax when it's actually 1%. But he said he would likely still vote for it.

Sarasota County Charter results

Also on the ballot were two changes proposed for the county's basic governing rules. The Sarasota County charter, which is kind of like its constitution, can be amended through several different methods, including a petition process.

Citizens opposed requiring petitioners who want to make a change to the charter to collect signatures from at least 10% of registered voters in each of Sarasota's five commission districts by a narrow margin, with 51.4% opposed and 48.6% in favor. The previous rule required citizens to get 10% of voters countywide.

The other question, which asked voters if the charter should be amended to say that any proposed charter amendment can’t conflict with the Florida Constitution, passed more easily, with about 64% in favor.

This article originally appeared on Sarasota Herald-Tribune: Voters agree to extend Sarasota County sales tax by wide margin