Here are some common questions about the half-cent surtax

What does this mean for residents / businesses?

Is this a new tax?

This is a 0.5% increase to the existing 6.5% sales tax that is currently levied in St. Lucie County.

What future projects will these tax dollars fund?

Priority projects relating to water quality, road reconstruction and repaving, sidewalks and public safety have been identified for completion during the first five years of the tax. Click here for a list of identified projects.

How long will this tax be in effect?

If passed, it will be in effect for 10 years.

How is a sales tax different from a property tax?

Property taxes (Ad Valorem) are assessed based on property ownership. Sales taxes are generated from monetary transactions / purchases at local businesses. Tourists and visitors to St. Lucie County would also help support county infrastructure services through a sales tax. Analysts estimate that as much as 20% of the revenue will be generated by non-residents.

Are there items exempt from the sales tax?

Yes. The tax will not be applied to gas purchases or unprepared food (i.e. groceries). For automobile purchases, the tax is only applied to the first $5,000 of the purchase, or a $25 cap. For a full listing see Florida Statute 212.08.

Has the sales tax referendum been on ballots in other counties?

Yes. Eighteen other Florida counties levy an infrastructure surtax, including Indian River County to the north of us.

What is the current sales tax rate for St. Lucie and other neighboring counties?

St. Lucie County – 6.5%

  • Indian River County – 7%
  • Martin County – 6%
  • Okeechobee County – 7%
If the sales tax passes does it mean property taxes will not be increased?

The sales tax lessens the pressure on property tax but it will be up to the elected officials in the cities of Fort Pierce, Port St. Lucie and St. Lucie County to determine the property tax rate during their annual budget discussions. Currently property tax is the primary source of funding for local governments to provide services.

Who will manage and have oversight over the funds generated from this tax?

A Citizen’s Oversight Committee will be created providing review and reporting to citizens on spending, status and outcome of projects, and audits of all financial records. Additionally, updates on the progress of these projects will be reported to residents on a regular basis and available online.

Why should we trust a sales tax increase to generate additional funds?

A sales tax will provide a consistent revenue stream (roughly $18.5 million per year) for all local governments to use a match money for State and Federal grants. As an example, St. Lucie County used the voter-approved Environmental Lands Tax, which was a small 20-year tax to pay for a $20 million bond, and matched that with other outside funding sources to purchase $76 million in land.

Isn’t a sales tax regressive and disproportionately affect low-income residents?
  • We don’t want to only tax property owners by increasing property tax
  • Many low income folks don’t pay any property tax
  • It is estimated that visitors to St. Lucie County will pay at least 20% of the sales tax generated
When is the earliest the sales tax will become effective if the Board of County Commissioners levies the sales tax via resolution following a successful referendum?

January 1, 2019

Are there restrictions on the use of the revenues?

Yes. Revenues generated from the tax can only be used on infrastructure projects in St. Lucie County.

As far as the water/river clean up tax, shouldn't boat owners and Marinas paying for the river clean up?

As you know, it is not only boat owners and Marina’s that contribute to the problems in our local waterways.  We are focusing on stormwater and drainage projects. We hope to provide better drainage to prevent flooding, but also collect the stormwater so that the nutrients and sediment from this runoff can be reduced before being released into the St. Lucie River and Indian River Lagoon. Stormwater is a result of residential and agricultural impacts; not boat owners. While we don’t disagree that boaters play a part in impacting our waterways; a tax against boats/marines would have to come down from the State.

I am a resident of The City of Fort Pierce I would like to have a future time schedule of what roads to be resurfaced / sidewalks and water projects before I vote on the tax.

We are working closely with the municipalities to develop a clear and comprehensive list of projects. As for specific timetables, to some degree that is simply unknowable at this time for several reasons. First,  please know that the funds will be evenly distributed among and within the cities.  Second, the dollars generated can only be spent on those projects and nothing else.  Third, we do have and each city has estimates and priorities of these projects identified. These projects were selected based on need; as well as those that are “shovel ready,” meaning we can get started fairly quickly. But due to revenue estimates, engineering review and implementation, getting actual project costs and other such real-world implementation variables, an exact timetable would be nearly impossible to develop.  Please know we share your concern and agree that the more we know the better and to that end we have tried to be as transparent as possible.

What does this mean for local government?

Where will the money be spent?

Every single dollar generated by this extension will be spent on infrastructure projects right here in St. Lucie County including the City of Fort Pierce and the City of Port St. Lucie.

Will the projects for funding be permanent or will they change?

The resolution covering the allocation of funds specifically designates the funds be used solely for infrastructure needs in St. Lucie County, including projects within the cities of Fort Pierce and Port St. Lucie.

How much money will be generated through this tax?

It is estimated that the infrastructure surtax (half-cent sales tax increase) will generate $18.5 million annually. The funds will be distributed in the following manner:

  • BOCC – $9.2 million
  • Port St. Lucie –  $7.5 million
  • Fort Pierce – $1.8 million
  • St. Lucie Village –  $25,000

o   Total –  $18.5 million

This funds can only be used for capital projects such as road repaving/construction; sidewalks and stormwater improvements. They can not be used for staff or operating costs.

Why don’t local governments use reserve funds for these projects?

Local governments do not have enough funds available in reserves to cover the additional money needed for these infrastructure projects. St. Lucie County has been using reserves to stabilize its budget since 2009. The county is currently budgeting reserves to balance the annual budget until 2020. Additionally, local governments need to set aside a portion of the budget for emergency reserves in the event that our area is hit with a natural disaster such as a hurricane. In 2004, St. Lucie County spent roughly $9 million out of its reserves just on debris removal alone, following Hurricanes France and Jeanne.

Why use sales tax for these projects over property tax?

One mil of county-wide property taxes equals $17.45 million. A tax increase to fund $1.2 billion in projects over 20 years is not economically feasible and would be a burden to property owners. There are several advantages in a local option sales tax over property taxes:

  • Visitors to the county, whether on vacation, driving through, or living elsewhere but working here, pay the .5% local option sales tax when they make most purchases
  • Ad valorem (property) taxes are 100% paid by property owners; and
  • Anyone on fixed spending incomes pay a smaller overall percentage of sales tax as opposed to those who spend more on major taxable purchases
Has the sales tax referendum been on ballots in other counties?

Yes. Eighteen other Florida counties levy an infrastructure surtax including Indian River County to the north of us.

Who will manage and have oversight over the funds generated from this tax?

A Citizen’s Oversight Committee will be created providing review and reporting to citizens on spending, status and outcome of projects, and audits of all financial records. Additionally, updates on the progress of these projects will be reported to residents on a regular basis and available online.

If the referendum fails, can the County hold a subsequent referendum on the same question?

There are no restrictions on resubmitting the sales tax option to the voters again after an unsuccessful referendum.

Can a County spend public money educating citizens on issues related to the referendum?

Yes. A county may spend money to educate the public on issues related to the half-cent local government surtax referendum. However, a county may not spend money advocating for or against the sales tax.

Can elected officials actively promote the passage of the referendum?

An elected official may publicly endorse and support the sales tax. Local governments may not reimburse any expenses incurred by an elected official while the official is advocating either for or against the tax measure.

Will the funds for resurfacing / repairs of roads / side walk that are in the General Operation Funds be cut?

No.  The dollars generated by the half-penny, if it were to pass, will be added to the current budget and will only be spent on the projects as identified in the ordinance, roads, sidewalk and water management projects designed to clean our local waterways.

Will the 1/2 cent tax go to purchase any equipment (dump trucks, street equipment)?

No. By Statute, the funds can only be used on capital projects to build new projects and maintain what we currently have.

What is in place that is guarantee that the City of Fort Pierce and the City of Port St. Lucie will put the money in their roads?

Florida Statute mandates how these funds will be spent. No local government will be able to use the sales tax for salaries or other non-capital projects such as parks. These funds can only be spent on roads, sidewalks and water quality projects. Additionally, there will be a citizen’s oversight committee for each local government watching how these funds are spent and the progress of these projects.

How will the taxpayers know how much is collected and what kind of break down on how the money is spend on?

The citizens’ oversight committee will meet regularly to monitor these funds. The makeup of these boards and the frequency that they will meet has yet to be determined, as we want to wait until the election is over before assuming that residents will approve this measure. Also, we plan to keep the sales tax website active as a resource for residents to check the status of these projects.

What does this mean for voters?

Who put this issue on the ballot?

On April 3, 2018, the St. Lucie County Board of County Commissioners unanimously adopted an ordinance that directed the Supervisor of Elections to schedule a referendum election to allow the qualified electors of the county to vote on the levy of a proposed infrastructure surtax. This was voted on by County Commissioners after seeking support from the City of Fort Pierce, the City of Port St. Lucie and St. Lucie Village.

What will I see on the ballot?

Ballot #14 
HALF-CENT LOCAL GOVERNMENT SURTAX

To fund projects to improve local roads, reduce traffic congestion, add sidewalks, improve local water quality, including the Lagoon, reduce neighborhood flooding and similar uses under Florida law and seek matching funds for these purposes, shall St. Lucie County levy a half-cent sales tax, for ten years, with expenditures reviewed by an independent citizens committee ensuring dollars are spent fairly throughout Port St. Lucie, Fort Pierce, St. Lucie Village and St. Lucie County?

________ FOR THE 0.5 CENT SALES TAX
________ AGAINST THE 0.5 CENT SALES TAX

Where are my polling places?

For a list of polling places visit the St. Lucie County Supervisor of Elections.

When will this be on the ballot?

The Half-Cent Local Government Surtax (Ballot #14) will be on the Nov. 6 ballot. Early voting will take place Oct. 22– Nov. 4 (Monday – Saturday 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Sunday 7 a.m. to 3 p.m.). For a list of early voting locations visit the St. Lucie County Supervisor of Elections.

Where will this appear on the November Ballot?

The Half-Cent Sales Tax will be Ballot #14 – it will be the last issue on the ballot. 

How will residents be selected to serve on the Oversight Committee? How does a local resident apply or volunteer to be considered for this oversight committee?

The details of how the citizen oversight committee will be left to the enacting commissions. It is anticipated that they will be residents of St. Lucie County with equal representation from each city and from the unincorporated areas of St. Lucie County.  The Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) and the City Commissions have discussed this and the importance of it to ensure, during the duration of the tax, that an independent citizens group meets on a regular basis and reviews the expenditures to ensure an added layer of protection and oversight to ensure the dollars will be spent ONLY as intended.  But please be mindful that it would be premature (and perhaps a bit presumptive) to actually pass a governing ordinance unless and until voters pass it.  Should the sales tax be approved, the Board would put out a call to potential volunteers to serve through press releases, websites and social media. The Commissioners would then review and select persons at a regular Board meeting whom they all could agree to serve on the committee.

Who can I contact about questions not answered on this FAQ?

If you don’t see your question answers on this forum, please feel free to email PIO@Stlucieco.org.

Still have questions? 

Email questions to pio@stlucieco.org