TAMPA (FOX 13) - Hillsborough County voters passed two referendums Tuesday night that will increase the county's sales tax rate to the highest in the state.
With 57 percent of the vote, people in Hillsborough said "yes" to a one-cent sales tax increase that will fund transportation improvements.
"We're thrilled. We are humbled by the support that we got in every single corner of Hillsborough County," said Tyler Hudson, the chairman of All For Transportation, the group that helped craft the referendum. "There is a long list of projects we know that need to get fixed: there are potholes that need to get filled, there are sidewalks that just stop randomly on the sides of streets, and those are projects that we expect to see the county and the city to move on really quickly."
Hudson said he hopes the construction will begin as soon as possible, although a 13-member oversight committee needs to be formed first.
Drivers, some of whom are still expressing concerns, explained why they felt this tax was necessary.
"My only concern about it is, is the money going to be earmarked for what it was intended to? I've seen many projects that they say it's for one thing and then it gets diverted somewhere else," said C.J. Castro, who sits in 45 minutes of traffic everyday during his drive from New Tampa to Downtown. "Infrastructure is very important. It leads to quality of life. It also brings in more business, it brings in more revenue for the city."
"It was just a recognition that had waited much too long. We had many opportunities to do this in a much cheaper way. But the political people didn't have enough courage to do what needed to be done, so the electorate had to do it," added Rudolph Alexander of Tampa.
Meanwhile, voters also passed a half-cent sales tax increase for school improvements. The funding will be earmarked for a long list of projects at every school.
Deteriorating air conditioning units and leaky roofs are at the top of the district's list.
"This is what it feels like when a plan comes together," Hillsborough Schools Superintendent Jeff Eakins said Tuesday night. "The money starts to flow in January. We're going to put all the groundwork together on all those projects."
Eakins cautioned voters to have reasonable expectations; work will begin soon, but Eakins also joked every air conditioning unit will not be fixed in January.