Discussion in 'Local Government and Groups' started by Bob Wells, Nov 1, 2011.
If i had to pay a toll to cross the bridge, I'd probably never go to the south end again. I bet the Mid Bay bridge has already paid for itself at least two fold...I don't know.
A Walton County committee concluded Thursday that voters should decide how, or if, they should come up with $75 million to help pay for a new southbound bridge over Choctawhatchee Bay.
“The largest public works project in the history of this county needs to go before the voters,” concluded Sheriff Mike Adkinson, a member of the U.S. Highway 331 Blue Ribbon Task Force.
The five-member task force voted unanimously to ask the County Commission to hold a referendum for voters to decide whether they support a bump in the local sales tax.
Revenue from the sales tax would be used to provide the $75 million the Florida Department of Transportation says the county must come up with before the DOT puts up $177 million of its own money.
All the money would be needed to pay for the second bridge.
A referendum must be held by May 31 because the DOT has said if the county hasn’t found matching funds by then the $177 million would be used for something else.
The state had offered to make the bridge a toll road and use the revenue to pay it off over 30 years. If voters reject the sales tax hike, the county still could opt for a toll.
No one who attended Thursday’s task force meeting favored a toll.
But Adkinson said he knew he would recommend a referendum 15 minutes before he even joined the committee.
“If you’re going to spend taxpayer money you don’t have, you’ve got to take your case to the boss,” he said.
By DOTTY NIST
“I don’t really want a toll and I don’t want to be taxed, either,” one local resident told the Highway 331 Task Force at its Jan. 11 public workshop at the South Walton Courthouse Annex, which was attended by over 50 people.
This was a sentiment to which almost everyone could relate, including the members of this task force appointed to evaluate options for the $75 million local match that is being required from Walton County in order for the four-laning of the U.S. 331 bay bridge to become a reality. Those options include a 1-percent sales tax increase and the placement of a 30-year toll on the new bridge span to be constructed.
Like the majority of those in attendance, the resident, who crosses the bridge to work on the beach, was convinced of the need for expanding the bridge and was opposed to a toll.
“I am totally against tolls,” he said, adding that he did not favor any fee that would carry forward to his children. “I will pay the tax if I have to,” he concluded.
He was one of two dozen citizens to address the members of the county-commission-appointed task force at the two-hour public workshop in Santa Rosa Beach. The majority of the speakers stated either that they strongly supported or would favor the 1-percent sales tax option.
Just one speaker spoke favorably about the toll option, giving the reason that it would be unlikely for the sales tax increase to ever be discontinued once approved. He reasoned that the county could impose the toll and stop it when the $75 million in matching funds had been collected. A business owner, he further suggested that businesses could reimburse their employees for the tolls they had paid getting to work.
However, when advised that it would be the state and not the county imposing the toll, as the county has no tolling authority, the speaker changed his mind, saying, “Well, I guess we need a tax, then,”
Regarding a toll, it was also discussed that, with this option, there would be no toll booths and that all tolling would be electronic, with the use of a photographic technology. The technology would provide for people from out of the area to receive bills in the mail for their tolls as a result of their license tags having being photographed as they crossed the bridge. The toll fee has been estimated at $2 to $3, to be collected on the new southbound span only, not on the existing bridge section, which would remain in place to carry northbound traffic.
Of, those expressing support for a sales tax increase, some said they would favor a tax increase of less than a whole percent. Walton County Finance Director William Imfeld has estimated that it would be possible to pay off the $75 million in 10 years or less with a one-percent tax increase—and in approximately twice that time with a half-percent increase.
Some attendees expressed concern that a 1-percent sales tax increase would put Walton County’s sales tax at 8 percent, the highest in the state. However, several Florida counties currently have a tax rate as high as 7.50 percent.
An analysis by the Haas Center for Business Research and Economic Development revealed that approximately 43 percent of the tax increase would be paid by residents and approximately 57 percent by tourists—and that growth in the tourist industry would result in tourists paying an even greater percent of the sales tax.
A citizen referendum would be required to increase the sales tax, and a decision by the Walton County Board of County Commissioners (BCC) would be required in order for the state to put a toll in place. With either method of funding for the $75 million match being approved, the state has agreed to bid out the $179 million project this year on a design-build basis, with design to start this year and take approximately 12 months. Construction is envisioned to take 18 months to complete….
Read the full story in the Jan. 19, 2012 edition of the Herald Breeze.
Don't we lose money if we have to mail out something for every toll? Between envelopes, labor, buying and maintaining the equipment, and stamps, it sounds like we'd net 25 cents for every $2 toll.
Have also heard that a 1% sales tax would bring in twice as much as needed for the bridge ................. and that they already have plans for that money so the tax would never go away.
It would be nice to have a new bridge and it would help for evacuations. But it is obvious Walton County can't afford it and neither can the state if they are pushing it onto the citizens. I see a couple of alternatives. Make tourism pay, because if there are no tourists then there is no evacuation issue. Or come up with an evacuation plan that works with one bridge when the rentals are full. The only way to do that is mandatory evacuation for all very early. I doubt anyone wants that or it might not even be feasible.
So let's create a bed tax that is in addition to the current one that we can use to pay for a bridge, and maybe other infrastructure while we're at it. Separate TDC duties of marketing from things like walkover repair and beach maintenance. Repeal the current tax and create a new one to fix it and think long term.
We know a lot more now than we did then.
Mandatory evacuations are a joke. You can NOT force someone out of their home.
No need to force. If some idiots don't leave that's on their head. Most people in SoWal have sense and will leave. Most tourists want to get back home when bad weather is coming. Some idiots want to stay to see what a real storm is like and need a gentle push.
Noone has ever forced me to evacuate. I have never regretted evacuating either.
You are the man or (woman) as the case may be. Your brief solution to the problem makes sense. Let the tourists pay their share of the cost of the new bridge or let's come up with an alternative plan of evacuation. It's not rocket science (play on words).
I cannot believe that, all of the sudden, there is this looming deadline that the state will take away its $175 M dollars, if we do not come up with $75M dollars. It seems like blackmail to me. Why in the world are we paying incredible sums of money, including BP money, for advertising, when studies have shown that 90% of the tourists visiting our beaches are return customers! The TDC needs to gets it's head out of the "clouds" and put forth a great deal of the money it seems to love to squander on advertisement into infrastructure. If you build it, they will come.
WCTA Issues Position On 331 Bridge Issue
View attachment 26395
Taxpayer Group To Commissioners “No Tax and No Toll”
Santa Rosa Beach, Florida, 1/24/2012 - The Walton County Taxpayers Board of Directors has carefully considered the funding proposal for the 331 Bridge Project that is being submitted to the County Commissioners. The WCTA cannot support either option- raising the sales tax or implementing a toll on the bridge.
The case has not been adequately made that the proposed burden to be placed on local taxpayers is offset by the value gained by the bridge, especially since our neighbors in Bay County have recently had a new state highway bridge fully funded by the State of Florida with no such request of those neighbors.
However,WCTA wholeheartedly supports the County Commissioners working at the State level on behalf of the local taxpayer. WCTA supports exhaustive efforts being made to ensure that the State is investing FULLY in the needs of Walton County.
WCTA represents 2789 property owners in Walton County and WCTA will actively educate its members and the voters of Walton County on this issue.
To reiterate, as it relates to The Bridge proposal, the WCTA position is clear "No Tax and No Toll".
Bob, what did Bay County do differently to receive their funding? Are the commissioners not being as effective at the state level?
For the record, I wholeheartedly agree with you. Why do the folks to our East receive infrastructure improvements without tolls/sales tax increases? Anyyywaaaaayyy, keep up the good work!
In my opinion that is true. It also has something to do with who our state representatives are and their relative stature in the grand scheme of things in Tally.
The TPO is dominated by reps from Okaloosa and Bay Counties and many times our reps have not even attend as funds were diverted from Walton County to Okaloosa and Bay.
It has also not helped as the Road Trust fund has been raided by the legislature as of late to the tune of 3.8 billion dollars in order to "balance the budget".
In order to not be tossed I will skip any discussion of our Walton County elected officials (past and present) and their effectiveness in impressing on the legislature the need for the bridge.
Bdarg was speculating that St. Joe had some sway with the Bay County bridge and good for the airport? And also that our districts are somewhat "striped" in that the districts basically cut through Walton Co.- the reps are from either side of us but not a one is from here?
Perhaps, we need to entertain a change in local representation in Tally. Today, we received a recorded message from our representative regarding the presidential primary. My thoughts are that he/she needs to embrace the local issues more.
Well Rep Drake is a Walton County resident and is on the Transportation Committee. Rep Coley is also our (southern portion of Walton County) repesentative but her district (she lives in Matianna) is one of the strangest House districts in Florida.
They should have named the new airport St Joe Airport.
How effectively they represent Walton County I will leave to your evaluation and analysis.
Oh nobody gives a fig about my analysis. And thanks- I guess I could have looked up those facts but I figured you would just know.;-)
2 or 3 years ago Dave Murzin from Pensacola had told me about a Walton County contingent who was trying to get a bridge and asked the group I was with what our views were on a toll bridge. This is something that has been in the works at least since then. I support the tax over the toll.
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