To Surtax or Not

Op Ed by Carmine Miranda

This year the push from Sarasota County and it’s surrounding cities are all about extending the Penny Tax.

You know the 1% added to Florida’s Sales Tax Rate of 6%.

Many County wide residents have no idea what the Penny Tax is or what it is used for. Some do and realize tourists and other neighboring county residents come into Sarasota County and it’s surrounding cities to spend their hard earned dollars.

They buy automobiles, rent homes or stay in hotels to enjoy our beautiful beaches, lakes and canals.

Many have a winter home here. They frequent restaurants and shops throughout the County. They purchase household goods and services, clothing and groceries.

It’s like bonus money because it comes from outside of our County. It no doubt comes from other hard working tax payers that help take some of the burden off of Sarasota County property owners.

It has been stated that each Surtax dollar received by the County is approximately 20% visitor vs 80% resident. A big shout out to our county residents who spend money in Sarasota.

The County and it’s City Governments have a huge responsibility to use this money responsibility. It is not to be used for daily operating expenses. It is to be used for Capital Improvement Projects such as Infrastructure, Road & Drainage, Police and Fire protective equipment, Fire and Police stations, libraries and parks.

The County and it’s Cities have come to rely on this infusion of tax dollars each year. It should be taken under consideration that this money could be reduced or even disappear with incidents we experienced in 2018 and 2020. Red Tide and fish kills nearly wiped out tourism as we know it.

The same could be said for 2020 with Covid19. So with that said our elected officials need to be responsible in handling Surtax Dollars as well as Property Tax Dollars.

One way the County Government can be responsible is by being fully transparent. County residents have been told the largest city by population receives a bigger share of the Surtax dollars.

But is this true? Sarasota County is made up of cities (North Port, Venice, City of Sarasota, Town of Longboat Key) and Unincorporated Sarasota. Unincorporated Sarasota represents the largest population in the County. In an effort to be transparent, the County should provide the total surtax amount the county received and what each City received over the last five years and how this is calculated.

I thought five would be a good number but it could easily be the last ten or fifteen years. In addition, it would be transparent to know what Capital Improvement Projects were submitted by Cities and their residents.

Since the County decides what projects move ahead it would be transparent to know the projects that made the list as well as the ones that didn’t make the list but could be viable for consideration today.

It would also be transparent to know what course of action the County and Cities would take if the Penny Tax is voted down.

Will Capital Improvement Projects be put on hold or re-prioritized?

Will County and or City property taxes be increased to make up for the shortfall?

How do you feel about losing the tourist/visitor portion of the Penny Tax?

City of North Port is conducting a Surtax Meeting on November 8, 2021 at City Hall Chambers from 5:30 pm to 7:00pm.

We invite the community to show up and ask for transparency.

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