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St. Johns County says no to higher sales tax

St. Johns.JPG
The Jaxson
A new development in St. Johns County.

St. Johns County voters were adamant: They do not want to pay more sales tax.

Voters on Tuesday defeated a proposal to raise the sales tax to 7.5% from 6.5% to pay for roads, parks, libraries and other needs of a growing population.

The vote was roughly 63% against, according to unofficial results.

County commissioners said the 1% increase would have generated $49.6 million a year for the county, almost $3 million for St. Augustine and $1.3 million for St. Augustine Beach.

St. Johns is one of the fastest-growing counties in the U.S., putting stress on roads, schools and law enforcement. The county's population has grown about 44% in the last 10 years, and there are no signs of slowing down.

All of the money generated would have gone toward infrastructure needs, the county said. The money could not be used for government operations — for example, to pay library staff.

Sixteen of Florida's 67 counties — including Clay and Duval — already have a 7.5% sales tax, according to the Florida Department of Revenue.

The tax is a combination of Florida's 6% state sales tax plus any local surcharge. Only one county, Citrus, has no local sales tax. Six counties, including St. Johns, impose the smallest amount: 0.5%.

That did not persuade voters at a time of rising costs. Many residents have said developers — the ones they see profiting from new homes — should foot the bill for needed improvements.

Randy comes to Jacksonville from the South Florida Sun Sentinel, where, as metro editor, he led investigative coverage of the Parkland school shooting that won the 2019 Pulitzer Prize for public service. He has spent more than 40 years in reporting and editing positions in Illinois, Iowa, Missouri, Ohio and Florida. You can reach Randy at rroguski@wjct.org or on Twitter, @rroguski.