ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. – Close to 1,500 people are moving to Orange County each week, according Mayor Jerry Demings, and he says one way to handle the tremendous growth is by investing in the county's transportation.
Demings is pushing for a 1-cent sales tax to be put on the November 2020 ballot and says now is the time for residents to offer their input. Over the last few months, he has hosted several town halls and has three more coming up, including a Facebook town hall scheduled for December. Nearly 1,500 residents have filled out online surveys on the topic, according to the county.
"It's all about timing and I believe that the time is right, now," Demings said.
County officials say they are conducting community input and research as part of the process, with the proposed plan to be developed at the beginning of next year. The goal is to have residents weigh in on which area of transportation the tax money will go toward.
"They want us to do something about the traffic congestion here in our community," Demings said he's heard from resident input. "They all believe that we are lagging in terms of having a multimodal mass transit system here and they want that dream for our community."
When the mayor says multimodal he means a mass transit system that could include investing in the roads' infrastructures, adding more Lynx buses to meet demands and expanding SunRail to encourage more ridership.
"We have the spine of a system but in order for more people to desire to ride that system it has to go to different geographical sectors within our county," Demings said.
However, all of these are possibilities -- the residents will help with the final plan. And how would it affect consumers? The 1-cent sales tax will raise the current sales tax in Orange County from 6.5% to 7.5% - an extra penny to the dollar.
"The cost is probably the least impactful to the individual when we talk about the sales tax as opposed to the property tax," Demings said. "Because 51% of the people who would pay the tax here would be from our visitors who come to the area, not our permanent residents."
A similar half-cent sales tax for transportation, called Mobility 20/20 failed miserably among voters back in 2003. Demings said this time is different.
"It failed because it wasn't the right time. It failed because the connectivity they talked about was connecting the airport to the I-Drive corridor and it's much more than that," Demings said. "What we are talking about now is something different, in order for everybody to see themselves in the story line."
Orange County officials are encouraging residents to take the survey here and share any comments.
For more information and to see video of the previous town halls, click here.