OSCEOLA COUNTY, Fla. – Osceola County voters on Tuesday passed a sales tax extension that will fund public infrastructure improvement projects.
With 92% precincts reporting, the measure was winning 57-43%. The vote will keep the sales tax will remain in place until 2045.
Read more about the sales tax measure in the story below.
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BREAKING IT DOWN
Proponents of the measure have stressed that a “YES” vote would renew the sales tax rather than implement one, explicitly stating that there would be “NO sales tax increase,” according to Voters for a Better Osceola.
As described on an Osceola County Public Schools website, the school district would receive 25% of the tax’s revenue, with the remaining 75% to be split between the cities of Kissimmee and St. Cloud, as well as among the county as a whole based on population density.
The voters’ group and school district websites echo one another in listing the measure’s other purported benefits. According to them, tourists are expected to pay about 50%, each local government will participate in a joint oversight committee to review how the tax dollars are spent, the money would not leave the county, community improvement projects to be funded by the revenue have already been identified and the money can only be spent on public projects, not on things such as general operating expenses or employee salaries.
Now, as far as why the word “may” was chosen instead of “will” for the first sentence in this article, it turns out that the ballot measure could run into trouble not necessarily at the ballot box, but in a Ninth Judicial Circuit courtroom.
Outgoing Florida Rep. Anthony Sabatini (R-District 32), also an attorney in Clermont, announced earlier this month that he sued Osceola County in an effort to subject the ballot summary to an emergency case management conference before voters take it on, if at all.
Sabatini said the county violated Florida Statute § 101.161, which states “a ballot summary of such amendment or other public measure shall be printed in clear and unambiguous language.”
In the text of Sabatini’s lawsuit — originally filed Oct. 5 on behalf of Ruth Coberley, a county resident — Sabatini said the county coined the phrase “one-cent” not to imply a literal penny, but to shorten the term “one percent.”
It should be noted though that, mathematically speaking, one percent of $1 would in fact be 1 cent.
“Words matter. The absence of the preposition per materially and deceptively changes the meaning of the ballot summary,” the lawsuit stated.
Included in the lawsuit was an example of the ordinance itself — #2022-72, filed July 18 — as well as a similar ordinance filed in Orange County. Sabatini included Orange County’s document to use as a contrast against Osceola’s as it “accurately referred to its proposed tax increase as ‘at a rate of one percent (1%),’” he wrote.
On page two of the July ordinance, it states the ballot measure concerns “an extension of the discretionary sales surtax of ONE-PERCENT (one-cent).”
The ordinance states the sales tax will be extended, not increased, in this case for 20 years and four months. Sabatini in his filing described the ballot measure as “a sales tax increase at the rate of one per-cent (1%),” but the ordinance appears to clarify that the measure will “extend the levy of the discretionary local government infrastructure sales surtax,” not increase it.
At time of writing, it remains unclear how the legal complaint could proceed. No events are currently scheduled, yet it’s been requested that jury summons are issued Oct. 20, according to court filings.
We have contacted Osceola County for comment on the “one-cent” issue and are waiting to hear back.
A “YES” vote would keep the sales tax in place.
A “NO” vote would allow the sales tax to expire on Sept. 1, 2025.
Osceola County residents may check their voter status, find their polling place and more at their supervisor of elections’ website.
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