Seminole County penny tax increase passes in special election



SEMINOLE COUNTY, Fla. - Residents in Seminole County have voted to pass a countywide sales tax hike.

Officials announced the penny sales tax increase was approved shortly after polls closed at 7 p.m. Tuesday.

County leaders said the 1-cent increase will generate an estimated $63 million a year for improvement projects like road construction and bridges.

More than 45,000 Seminole County voters cast their ballot for the penny tax referendum.

"They are going to tax you one way or the other. This way it won't be on your property taxes," Longwood resident Richard Jefts said.

With the penny tax, schools will get 25 percent of the money. The rest will go to safety projects along State Road 436, fixing up historic districts in Sanford and Longwood, as well as a new interchange near the Greenway in Winter Springs.

"'Field of Dreams.' If you build it they will come. If you give them the money, they will spend it. That's my attitude and they will always want more," Seminole County voter JoAnne Rebello said.

For shoppers, the penny tax will raise the sales tax rate from 6 cents to 7 cents for every $1 spent. It's been a controversial special election that divided voters and cost the county around half of $1 million.

"That half of $1 million could be used to fix a school roof somewhere. They said they need the money," voter David Leavitt said.

According to the election results, 25,093 people voted for the penny tax, while 23,022 people voted against it.

"I home-school my kids and pay for two schools I don't use," said opponent Heather Cline. "I don't see we need another tax. We have the highest tax rate here in Seminole County already."

The new sales tax will go into effect in January 2015 and will continue for the next 10 years.