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Martin County voters shoot down referendum to increase sales taxes

Posted at 8:33 PM, Aug 29, 2017
and last updated 2017-08-30 04:09:43-04

Voters in Martin County overwhelming shot down a referendum to increase sales taxes for infrastructure improvements.

Resident Julene Pilati knows there's work to be done in Martin County. 

“I drive up and down roads and I see sewers backed up,” said Pilati.

And so does Barbara Farrell.

“We need a lot of improvement around here,” said Farrell. 

But like many in the county, the two disagree on whether a sales tax increase by the county is the way to do it. 

Pilati was against it.

“They always say it's going to go somewhere, but they put it in a general fund, and it always gets to go somewhere else,” said Pilati.

Farrell, however, embraced Tuesday's vote. 

“I don't think they're out to do things that we don't want them to do. That's what we have to believe, don't we?” asked Farrell. 

On Tuesday, 63 percent of Martin County voters sided with Pilati, saying no to the proposed penny sales tax increase 

The county says the tax would have gone along way to clearing the $430 million backlog of infrastructure projects.

“We have aging infrastructure that was built in the 60s and 70s, and it's just come to the end of its life,” said deputy county administrator Don Donaldson.

County leaders were hoping the $230 million generated by the tax would go toward improving area roads, sewer projects and county buildings over the next 10 years.

They were also looking to use the money to clean up the St. Lucie River

All of that coming at an estimated cost of $120 a year for the average household. 

Donaldson says county commissioners now have two options. 

“You maintain a backlog for a long period of time, if not forever, sort of like maintaining debt. The other option of course is to raise other revenue, and the only source we have is through property taxes.”

Julene says even though her side came out victorious, no one really wins. 

“It’s a lose-lose situation. The taxes aren't being passed, and things aren't getting done.” 

Now it's back to the drawing board, as county commissioners will have to decide their next move to fund multiple projects.