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Martin County voters weeks away from considering one-percent sales tax increase

Posted at 11:20 PM, Aug 04, 2017
and last updated 2017-08-04 23:20:07-04

MARTIN COUNTY, Fla.

Is a one-cent sales tax increase in Martin County what it will take to start catching up on the county’s backlog of infrastructure projects?

In less than a month, county voters will get the chance to decide whether or not to raise the county’s sales tax by one-cent per dollar to help catch up on nearly $500 million worth of projects.

A county spokesperson says for the average family of four, the temporary rise would cost families who make around $50,000 a year about $10 per month, and gain the county about $23 million per year.

Martin County Fire Chief, William Schobel, wants the fire station on Hutchinson Island to be demolished, but that comes at a cost.

Schobel says two consultants have said the building is beyond repair. It is located right next to the ocean, and requires a lot of upkeep from the salt air and other environmental factors.

But its location serves at least 1500 people each year, Schobel said.

“Our presence here is very important for the residents and visitors of Hutchison Island,” Schobel said.

Looking around the building, rust and some wear and tear is apparent. Schobel says there are also radio and electrical issues.

“Our general services department does a good job of what we call putting lipstick on a pig.”

But, Schobel would rather stop the repair costs, and build something new, near the Marriott Hotel complex on the island. He says officials are looking at repurposing an old water storage structure for a new fire house.

The location could also shave some response time, he says.

“We try not to wear out our welcome asking for things from the commission,” Schobel said, but he is hopeful the county can find some way to pay for needed changes.

Opponents of the sales tax increase want to see a more specific priority list for the projects.

Some environmental groups want to see more of the money go to parks and beaches, though some is earmarked to fund septic to sewer conversions.

Others want the county to do more with the money it has.

“This is something that has to be done. It’s just how do the taxpayers want to pay for it,” Schobel said.

Since the fire station benefits out of town visitors, Schobel said the sales tax would allow visitors to contribute to the upkeep rather than residents only.

The county could consider discussing raising property taxes if the sales tax is not approved by voters.

14 other counties in the state have raised their sales taxes this year, including Palm Beach and Indian River counties.

61 of Florida’s 67 counties levy an additional local sales tax.