Controversial penny tax making waves in Seminole County

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SEMINOLE COUNTY, Fla. —

In Seminole County cities like Winter Springs, the proposed penny tax would bring new roads, bridges and sidewalks and supporters of the tax said that's a benefit to taxpayers that they need to understand before casting a vote in May.

Opponents of raising the sales tax from 6 to 7 percent have picketed and left signs for county commissioners.

One former county commissioner told Channel 9 the tax is huge, covering the costs of $19 million in proposed public projects in Winter Springs alone.

"It's a penny per dollar and it adds up very quickly," said former commissioner Grant Maloy.

But getting big money will cost money, not just the public cost of holding a special election, but a contract with a public relations firm, consensus communications for an informational campaign to educate voters on the good work the money would support and paying the consultants $135 an hour.

That's a lot of money to make the case for a tax that even one Seminole commissioner agrees could be sold by county commissioners themselves.

"I think it's wrong," said Seminole resident Ed Riordan. "I think it's akin to a political action committee and that puts the public at a distinct disadvantage. Those of us that oppose it, not only do we not have the money to fight city hall, but they're using our money to fight against us."

The amount of that PR expenditure, $50,000, is small enough the item did not require a vote of county commissioners.