Southwest Florida residents voted to increase property tax in Charlotte County, and sales taxes in Lee and Collier Counties.
“Anytime you say, ‘All right, citizens are going to give up money, out of my pocket, their pocket for something,’ you think it would be a no,” said Naples resident John Neville said.
But in this midterm election, voters challenged Neville’s statement by agreeing to increase their own taxes.
Charlotte and Lee Counties sales tax increase will improve schools. In Collier County, the increase will improve roads and buildings.
“I think people are on board with it because everyone wants to improve out community,” Neville said. “We want to improve where we live. We want to improve how it looks, and that’s one of the things this tax would do.”
A sociologist from Florida Gulf Coast University says the largest demographic in southwest Florida is older, white and conservative, who are generally against raising taxes.
But, he says the ballot language could be the reason the taxes passed.
“They’re very clearly written that there is citizen oversight committees for both of them, there’s a time limit for both of them and individuals can see themselves as benefiting directly from them,” said FGCU sociologist professor Ted Thornhill.
That’s why Naples resident Joe Quartarone says he voted yes.
“I figured if there’s going to be accountability, I think that would be OK,” Quartarone said.
Collier County Commissioner Penny Taylor says she surprised, but pleased the 1 percent sales tax passed.
“We’re known as a non tax county, right? We don’t like taxes and yet when it’s presented in a way that shows there’s a reason, there’s a dedicated source that will go to different issues that are already figured out, it speaks volumes for our voters,” Taylor said.
In Collier County, the next step is to form a public committee to review how the tax money is spent. The county is currently looking to fill seven seats for the public committee.