With all precincts reporting, both the new half-cent sales tax for the county and the extension of a half-cent sales tax for the school district were headed for approval.
The county tax had earned 57 percent — or 98,508 — of the votes, with 43 percent, or 74,854, voting to reject the tax. The school extension earned 102,367 “yes” votes, 59 percent, against 70,691 “no” votes, 41 percent.
“It was so important to see such broad-based community support for the half cent, but it was especially good to see that the majority of Manatee County voters saw the benefits of the sales tax and made the choice to invest in their future,” County Administrator Ed Hunzeker said.
Hunzeker said most of the new taxes would be paid by tourists and other visitors to the county.
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“I’ll be meeting with our leadership team soon to discuss the next steps for implementing the sales tax and ensuring that work on our list of projects can begin sometime after the new year begins,” Hunzeker said.
Schools Superintendent Diana Greene shared a similar sentiment, according to a statement sent out by the school district. Greene stated that she feels like a Chicago Cubs fan right now after winning the World Series.
“The additional funding this measure provides will help us build the new schools we need to respond to growth, starting with a new high school in the Parrish area,” Greene said. “It will also help us get caught up on badly needed repair and renovations of our existing schools, and it will help us improve and update the district’s technology and security systems. It’s a big win for the children of Manatee County.”
In initiative No. 6 on the ballot, the county asked voters to approve the half-cent sales tax that would be used to leverage the issuance of debt to finance improvements. The sales tax should generate enough to address transportation, public safety and parks/community amenity needs as the county faces a deficit come 2018. Officials estimate the sales tax will generate $30 million a year, with about $5 million allocated for the cities.
In initiative No. 7, the school board asked for an extension of its half-cent sales tax, first implemented in 2002. School officials have repeatedly said extending the tax is crucial. The district anticipates needing new schools, especially in the northern and eastern portions of the county, and the half-cent sales tax will help fund those projects among others. The half-cent sales tax brings the district about $30 million annually.