Walton County continues to look at a half-cent transportation sales surtax

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WALTON COUNTY, Fla. (WJHG/WECP) - Tuesday, Walton County Commissioners received an update regarding a potential half-cent transportation sales surtax.

Last month, county officials held two public workshops, one in the north end and one in the south end of the county, where citizens could learn about what the tax would be used for and ask any questions they had.

"As a county government, we cannot go out and promote this. So really it's hard to get the information out there in a way that does not promote it. You really need an outside organization that understands what you're trying to do, who can put that information out there for you and that's what we really wanna look for is to get that information out to the public so they can make an informed decision," said Walton County Finance Director, Melissa Thomason.

But concerns over the lack of attendance at the two public workshops divided commissioners on whether they should move forward or not.

"They did have low attendance. We're not able to see how many hits we got with the information on the website, but as far as the public attendance at these workshops, it was pretty low," said Thomason.

Commissioner Sara Comander suggested tabling any further discussion, while Commissioner Bill Chapman urged to push forward and leave it up to the voters to decide.

"As far as my position on this half cent sales tax, it is easier for us to raise those funds because the tourists and other visitors to the area are gonna be paying over 62 percent of whatever is raised and this is a five-year look at and that is about $50 million plus it would generate," said Chapman.

Chapman said by specifically identifying where the collected money would go, he believes voters would be able to make a more informed decision on the ballot.

"We could use those monies to get the roads throughout the county paved. And we've already identified over 50 miles of road out of the 380-something miles of dirt roads in this county, along with a substantial number of old, wooden, single-lane bridges in the county to upgrade and improve them," said Chapman

"When you hear things in the community like. 'I'm not for it,' or whatever the case may be, I would have liked to see them come in there and voice those concerns and learn why they feel that way. It goes back to the education side of it. As long as we can get the message out," Chapman added. "This is what it's [the money is] earmarked for, this is what we want to use it for and will use it for if it's passed. Then there will be an improvement over time for the roads within the county."

Chapman also pointed out the proposed tax would automatically sunset after five years.