Local News

County to vote on impact fees, one-cent tax

— Money will be the principal topic of the Highlands County commission meeting at 9 a.m. today at Government Center, 600 S. Commerce.

The last two items on the agenda will ask voters to renew the current one-cent sales tax to build future infrastructure, and ask commissioners to review impact fees on new homes and businesses.

Voters approved the one-cent sales tax for 15 years on July 20, 1999, commencing in November 2004. The one-cent tax currently brings in about $9.5 million per year.

Taxes have been used to build the Government Center and will fund the proposed $10 million sheriff’s office.

If voters do not reauthorize the tax in the Aug. 26 primary election, the tax will expire in 2019. If voters do approve, the tax will expire on Dec. 31, 2034.

Commissioners are allowing the staff to spend $25,000 for public information and educational materials.

Impact fees were first levied in fiscal year 2006-07, but because of the recession, fees were suspended on July 1, 2009. By 2010, Highlands County was one of 19 Florida counties to lower or suspend impact fees.

Impact fees were charged to cover the cost of additional roads, sewers, law enforcement, recreation facilities, schools and other infrastructure as new construction raised the county’s population. Eight separate fees totalled $5,331 for a new 1,500 square-foot home.

By a vote of the commissioners, the fees have been suspended through June 30, 2014. However, if the board adopts the new ordinance, fees will be suspended another year.