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Bill in Tallahassee could derail Lee sales tax vote

Posted at 10:32 PM, Jan 31, 2018
and last updated 2018-01-31 22:44:05-05

Lee County School Board members spent the last couple weeks promoting and defending a half cent sales tax proposal, but those efforts could be in vain.

House Bill 317 would bar counties and municipalities from holding special elections for tax increases.

If passed, they could only be held during the general election.

Lee County tentatively has an election scheduled for May for the half cent tax.

"By the time they get to us they're going to say sales tax referendum? They are not going to fully know because there so many things people are going to try and be educated on, " said board member Steven Teuber, a proponent of the tax.

Teuber says the only way the increase happens is in a special election, when turnout is generally lower.

"I don't think so poorly of the voters, people that want to participate will participate, and they'll fill out the ballot," said Rep. Matt Caldwell (R-North Ft. Myers).

Backers of the tax say it will generate much needed cash for construction projects for the county's exploding population.

Teuber says the schools will be built, with or without the tax.

"Is it better to go into debt? Or have the money paid through a sales tax.?"

Rep. Caldwell, who chairs a committee that heard the bill, says taxes are big enough issues to appear in a general election ballot.

"You get the highest participation, you're talking about potential tax increases that affect everyone, and you certainly want to make sure, I believe and certainly my colleagues believe, that the most people in the community get the chance to weigh in on it," said Caldwell.

Lee County Schools Spokesperson Rob Spicker says the district will comment on the bill once it is passed.