Has any LOST supporter seriously considered the impact additional tourism, more home construction and increased population in the name of “economic development” will have on the capacity of, or impact upon, the county’s existing roads, schools, sewer, water, environment and other resources?

County tax revenue from ad valorem taxes increased from $58.2 million in the previous fiscal year to $61.9 million this fiscal year, an increase of $3.7 million. Why isn’t the increased revenue “prioritized” as done for the proposed LOST (Local Options Sales Tax) instead of going into the general fund?

While there are limitations on what the LOST can be used for, it is evident that funds raised through this process will offset general revenue expenditures and free up other general revenue budgeted for such items as salaries.

“Priorities” appear to be unevenly distributed throughout the county, with most revenues going to more developed areas and only resurfacing paved roads or paving dirt roads in rural areas of the county. There are no natural resource projects such as the purchase of environmentally sensitive lands identified in the “priorities,” but “natural resources” is listed on the ballot measure. What natural resource projects are proposed?

While projects have been “prioritized” for the LOST revenue, the County Commission is not obligated to spend LOST revenue on those projects.

Example: In November, 2014, voters rejected a sales tax increase to pay for a new courthouse and voted to keep the courthouse in downtown Milton. But because it was a non-binding referendum, commissioners did not follow citizen’s desires, and instead made a financially questionable deal to purchase land on Avalon Boulevard. Did the county ever identify the funding source for the new courthouse?

The current ballot measure is sufficiently vaguely worded such that LOST money can be spent for all sorts of things (“public facilities” among others) that quite logically could include a new courthouse.

Homeowners stand to lose the most because there is no guarantee that property tax rates won’t increase or that valuations won’t increase resulting in higher property taxes. While supporters estimate tourists and non-residents will contribute up to 30% of LOST revenue, there is no guarantee!

The county’s Ver. 2, 2019 FY Budget-in-Brief indicates $175,298,694 in revenue and that much in expenditures. That’s over $175 million! Based on the 2017 population estimate of 174,272 that’s over $1,000 dollars spent per resident! I just don’t see a million-dollar-value benefit per person. I encourage everyone to review this document at santarosa.fl.gov/DocumentCenter/View/1239/FY2019-Budget-in-brief-September-2018.

Based on past and current patterns of behavior, it appears supporters of LOST and continued unfettered, rampant growth of the county are one in the same, (e.g., county commissioners, planning board members and their financial supporters) and hold the mistaken belief that any and all development, at any cost to the natural attributes the county has to offer, are fair game, for sale and guaranteed acceptable for short-term profit, with no apparent regard for the long-term costs or consequences.

Has any LOST supporter seriously considered the impact additional tourism, more home construction and increased population in the name of “economic development” will have on the capacity of, or impact upon, the county’s existing roads, schools, sewer, water, environment and other resources?

Impact fees may raise less revenue than a LOST, but the idea of impact fees appears to be abhorrent to our County Commission. Until the County commission exhausts all other means of raising revenue without relying on ad valorem (property tax) or valuation increases to play catch up on “priority” projects, it is difficult to support additional sales taxes. Whatever happened to that Republican mantra, “No More Taxes”?

Until elected officials adequately manage growth and development in a responsible, cost-efficient manner, how can taxpayers support the latest effort to raise taxes yet again?

(Author's Note: Figures and facts are derived from county website or publications, Santa Rosa Press Gazette, Navarre Press, Pensacola News Journal, Studer Community Institute website, and Santa Rosa County Chamber of Commerce website and publications.)