In August, voters throughout our community will go to the polls to decide several local elections and, in some cases, select candidates for the November ballot. While these local raises are very important, I would like to mention an item for which you will start hearing more after Labor Day and heading towards November.
Safety. It is probably something we all take for granted until we need it. It is important to our families and to our businesses. We all want to know that in time of emergency, we can depend on the fire department, emergency services, and law enforcement to come to our aid. We also want to know that our roads will be safe to travel on.
In March 2016, Marion County voters approved a one-percent sales tax for public safety and transportation infrastructure. There are no salaries nor recurring costs paid by the sales tax revenues. Since January 2017, the tax has brought in $166M in estimated revenue that has funded 43 projects including:
- Building of Northwest 49th Avenue to improve traffic-carrying capacity and enhance the opportunity for economic development in the area.
- Rehabilitation of over 53 miles of roadways including: County Road 464B, County Road 326, County Road 316, County Road 42, and County Road 320
- Marion County Fire Rescue equipment including: 12 new ambulances, 5 new engines, 1 ladder truck, 300 self-contained breathing apparatus, and new fire station at Rolling Greens
- City of Ocala has completed 12 road improvement projects valued at over $1.9M
- City of Ocala also added two new fire stations and a police district office at the cost of $5.1M
Additionally, the City of Ocala and Marion County have seen their ISO ratings improve: Ocala to a 2 and Marion County to a 3. These improvements are in large part thanks to the sales tax and provide relief to property owners through lower insurance costs in addition to knowing that our homes and families are safer.
Our economist reveals that at least 30% of the taxes are derived from individuals who do not live in our community. This could include tourists who are visiting our parks or competing in equine events or simply passing through on the interstate. It also includes the approximately 80,000 people who commute into our community to work. The sales tax ensures they helping to fund the roads they drive on and the first responders on which they depend.
On November 3rd voters in Marion County will have the chance to extend public safety and highway safety with a Yes vote for the 1% local sales tax. We still have a substantial backlog of equipment needs and transportation projects. Should the sales tax fail to pass, the cost for these improvements will be levied on property owners.
Key facts regarding the sales tax:
- One-percent sales tax limited to 4 years
- January 1, 2021, and sunset on December 31, 2024
- Funding only Public Safety (40%) and transportation infrastructure needs (60%)
- Paid for by all county residents AND visitors