We need both impact fees for the future problems and the sales tax for the problems that building new homes have already caused.

Tuesday, we will vote for or against the 1-cent sales tax. 

The home builders and wholesale distributors in Escambia County have donated funds to urge SRC voters to pass the 1-cent sales tax. In fact they are spending thousands of dollars on signs and advertising to convince us we need to pass this sales tax. Why are these people so interested in the  business of Santa Rosa County?

If they are that interested, then why do some of these same builders buy their supplies and pay their taxes outside Santa Rosa County? In their ads they list items where they say the monies raised by the tax will be spent. The commissioners are not bound by the advertisements.

They can spend it on other projects and can borrow money against it. Unlike impact fees that must be used for the reason they were passed, example: monies passed for schools must be given to the school board. The builders are asking for so many building permits that the county employees can not keep up with the demand, so many that the county commissioners want to farm out the permitting process so the builders can build even faster. The county commissioners are doing everything they can to protect these builders from impact fees.

The home builders only need a few more years to build out Santa Rosa County, then they will be gone, leaving us with the problems they made. They are fighting impact fees with all their might because they have to pay the fee for every house they want to build before they can get a permit. They say the impact fees will increase the price of the houses and  prevent young people and the elderly from being able to afford to move to SRC. They want to build a lot of low cost housing. There is a subdivision planned for Woodbine Road in Pace where 726 homes will be built ... and every home having 2 cars now days, that will put 1,452 more cars on Woodbine Road every morning.

The average number of kids per family in Florida is 2. If only half the new homes have 2 kids, that would leave 726 needing a school room, a teacher and a bus. What will happen to our quality of  life and our property values when the schools are overcrowded, we have too few fire fighters, too few law enforcement personnel, traffic problems, flooding and so on? Then who would want to move here?

The county commissioners are paying $200,000 to hold this election this year. They could have held it for free next year, however there was a problem. The state has passed a law that says “starting in January of 2020,  60% of the voters must vote yes for a sales tax to pass,”  not the normal 51%, so, let's slip it in this year under the old rules. The other reason is that the ½ cent sales tax we approved, a few years back, expires in December.

In my opinion, we should vote NO to new taxes. We should then INSIST that our county commissioners start a process to enact impact fees. If they got busy today, they could have a written commitment to the people of Santa Rosa County stating that they will pass and will enforce impact fees that will cover the true impact of these new subdivisions in our county and they will do this as soon as possible. They would still have time to put the sales tax vote back on next year's ballot.  If we could get this commitment from the commissioners, I would vote yes for the tax next year.  It is only fair that the builders, who are profiting and the people moving into these new homes help pay for the new schools, teachers, buses, law enforcement, fire protection, roads and flood control that the new subdivisions will require.

We need both impact fees for the future problems and the sales tax for the problems that building new homes have already caused.

VOTE NO on October 8.

Gene Casey lives in Milton.