Osceola residents split over penny tax proposal

Funds would fix roads, sidewalks, intersections and county's transit system

Osceola County penny sales tax up for vote

OSCEOLA COUNTY, Fla. – A one-cent sales tax is up for discussion in Osceola County and not everyone is on board. 

If approved, county leaders said it could bring in more than $60 million each year. 

The money would be used to fix roads, sidewalks and intersections, as well as make improvements to the county's transit system. 

The idea is warranting a share of opinions from residents. 

Joann Yarborough understands money is needed to continue improving the county, but fears the increase may push small businesses out of the area. 

"I would really hate to see that happen. It almost leaves a business owner no choice," Yarborough said. "Either deal with (it) or relocate to another county that [is] still 7.5 percent."

A business owner herself, she said the increase would have a trickle effect, first affecting the customer and, ultimately, potential sales at her business. 

"I think it would force, actually, small businesses that's already barely making it to leave or relocate. Maybe even close down, which would be sad," Yarborough said. 

If passed, 75 percent of the money collected would fund roads and bridges, intersections and safer walking areas for bikers and pedestrians. The remaining 25 percent would be allocated for transit -- think added bus routes and times, along with more transit options.  

Tawny Olore, the director of transportation and transit in Osceola County, said the talk about a sales tax increase began about two years ago. 

"We ... had a transportation workshop in April of 2017 to talk about the options and needs of transportation for the county," Olore said. "This would be an increase average (of) about $10 a month, or about $120 a year."

Olore said a study showed 46-50 percent of those funds would come from people who live outside the county. 

People who live in the area feared a lack of transparency if the sales tax increase passed. 

"We will set up a website within our transportation and we will put out report cards on exactly what [projects] are moving forward, what the schedule for those projects are, the fees and what this tax is being spent on," Olore said.