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Sales tax hike to be decided by Collier voters

Posted at 6:42 PM, Apr 24, 2018
and last updated 2018-04-24 18:46:06-04

Collier County voters will decide whether to approve a one percent sales tax increase in November. The goal is to raise $490 million, which would pay for 18 projects, such as improving roads, replacing bridges and building new ambulance stations.

At the county's Board of Commissioners meeting Tuesday, some business owners raised objections to the proposed tax hike, which would raise it from 6 to 7 percent.

"A strong percentage of this tax is going to go directly on the backs of the small and medium-sized business owners in this county," said business owner Ron Kezeske.

H. Michael Mogil said part of the opposition is the timing, saying he lost weeks of business after Hurricane Irma.

"We are still recovering," Mogil told commissioners. "Give me a one percent sales tax, and I'm hurting."

Their comments struck a chord with Commissioner Donna Fiala.

"We're trying to encourage business, we're not trying to discourage business," she said. "I'm not really solidly behind this."

But with funding needed to pay for projects such as new sidewalks and sheriff's office facilities - as well as improving Collier County's heavily-used roads and bridges - the majority of commissioners believe there are benefits to a tax increase.

"I personally have no problem spending $100 or $200 in extra taxes if I don't have to spend 30 extra minutes each morning and each evening stuck in traffic," said Commissioner Burt Saunders.

Commissioners voted three to two to put the sales tax question on the ballot in November.

"There's nothing wrong with having that democratic process," Saunders said.

If if passes, the tax hike would end after seven years, or after collecting $490 million, whichever happens first.