Sales tax hike considered in Collier County

Posted at 6:27 PM, Jul 17, 2017
and last updated 2017-07-17 18:27:57-04

Commissioners in Collier County are considering raising the sales tax there by one percent, in the hopes that it would help fund several much-needed projects, such as road improvements, affordable housing and land preservation.

"That tax would generate about $70 million a year," Commissioner Burt Saunders said Monday.

Saunders said that $70 million would go a long way in helping a shortfall in money for improving county roads.

"Individuals are trying to get out onto the main roads," Saunders said. "They're just unable to do it because of the heavy traffic. So this sales tax increase would provide sufficient funds to fix a lot of the transportation needs that we have."

He said the question of a sales tax hike should be decided by voters, since it will affect lower-income residents the most.

"The nice thing about the Florida sales tax is it doesn't cover food and it doesn't cover medications," Saunders said.

Naples resident Sandra Quinn said she would vote for the increase if it provides incentives for developers to build homes that working people can afford.

"I think we all know we don't have affordable housing for teachers, firefighters and policemen," Quinn said. "We need to figure that out."

"I would be in favor if it were earmarked for conservation purposes," said Tonya Creighton of Naples.

Saunders and other commissioners would like a funding source to protect wetlands from development, and believe that money could come from the proposed sales tax hike.

"The only way I would support it, frankly, is if it included conservation," Saunders said.

The sales tax increase is a back-up plan after local realtors objected to raising property taxes. County staff are expected to make their recommendations on the tax hike later this year, and voters could cast their ballots on the proposal in November 2018.