Half cent sales tax increase for infrastructure projects proposed in Manatee

Kimberly Kuizon reports

- Many in Manatee County say it's about time leaders made progress on fixing bumps in the roadways, but they say a half-cent sales tax increase is needed to make it happen. 

A measure on the November ballot will reveal whether Manatee residents are willing to pay up for the fixes. 

Doug Menser of Dougout Hotdog Cafe sells a lot of hotdogs and drinks in his usual downtown Bradenton spot. After 13 years of living in Manatee County, he's seen a lot of changes, including a decrease in the quality of roadways.

"It has gotten a little slower and slower, it seems. It's up and downs," he described. "The roads, they could use some work."

Manatee County Commissioners have proposed the half cent sales tax that will appear on the November ballot. It would help pay for a list of 190 improvement projects including roads, parks and public safety.

"Our roads, our bridges, our lifeguard stands, our parks are all getting older and we have all this new population growth and people are using our roads and infrastructure and we don't have a way to pay for the repairs and upkeep and maintenance," said county spokesman Nick Azzara. "The community has changed a lot over the last decade, since 2006. 50,000 people have moved to Manatee County." 

If approved, it is estimated the tax would generate $30 million a year, $25 million of which would go to the county, and the additional $5 million would go to cities within the county.

The county projects the tax would cost families $5 a month,  and a third of the projected revenue would be paid by visitors coming to the area.

It's a small price Doug Menser thinks is worth paying.

"I don't think a half cent, or a cent tax would hurt business one little iota," he said.

A list of projects can be found at www.mymanatee.org/halfcent.

Commissioners are holding meetings within their districts to explain the sales tax proposal, beginning Tuesday, October 4. Each meeting will begin at 6 p.m. at the following dates and locations:

- Commissioner Vanessa Baugh's meeting will be held Tuesday, Oct. 4 at Lakewood Ranch Townhall, 8175 Lakewood Ranch Blvd.
- Commissioner John Chappie's meeting will be held Wednesday, Oct. 5 at Manatee Utilities building, 4410 66th St. West, Bradenton.
- Commissioner Charles Smith's meeting will be held Thursday, Oct. 6 at Palmetto Library, 923 6th Street West, Palmetto.
- Commissioner Carol Whitmore's meeting will be held Tuesday, Oct. 11 at the Bradenton Area Convention Center, 1 Haben Blvd., Palmetto.
- Commissioner Robin DiSabatino's meeting will be held Wednesday, Oct. 12 at South Manatee Branch Library, 6081 26th St. W., Bradenton.
- Commissioner Betsy Benac's meeting will be Wednesday, Oct. 19 at Braden River Library, 4915 53rd Ave E, Bradenton.
- Commissioner Larry Bustle's meeting will be held Thursday, Oct. 20 at the Rocky Bluff Library at 6750 U.S. Highway 301 N., Ellenton.

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