Voters make up minds early, cast ballots on Seminole County penny sales tax



SEMINOLE COUNTY, Fla. - Channel 9 has learned more than 20,000 voters have made up their minds on whether to pass the penny sales tax in Seminole County.

In all, 2,127 people have turned out for early voting, and 20,216 people have returned absentee ballots.

The school district promises if the penny tax passes it will lower the school portion of the property tax rates, but will the county do the same?

Channel 9's Kendra Oestreich reached out to commissioners and found out why they'd likely say no.

Bill Kelly of Seminole County Public Schools wants taxpayers to know the school district isn't getting greedy.

If the sales tax passes at the polls, the board voted to reduce the school's millage rate on property taxes by three-tenths of a mill for a $150,000 home, which is a savings of about $36 a year.

Plus, the sales tax would be an annual $15 million boost to the district.

"This gives us the money we need to repair roof, repair air-conditioning systems, to get these buildings up to the standards our taxpayers expect of us," he said.

The school board is giving a property tax break, so Channel 9 went to the county to see if it would do the same if the sales tax passes.

Commissioner Bob Dallari said it can't do that.

"It's either done in sales tax or it's done in property taxes," he said.

The clock ran out on the sales tax in 2011. Since then, the county's used up nearly $50 million in reserves to fund projects.

The county estimates the 1-cent sales tax would bring in $63 million a year. Raising property taxes one mill adds up to $24 million.

The decision is now up to voters.

Early voting continues through Saturday with the special election being held Tuesday.

If approved, residents will start paying the penny tax in Seminole County on Jan. 1.