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County plans property tax relief via added sales tax

The Manatee County Commission was scheduled to discuss a referendum on community tax issues during its April 9 meeting.

At stake is a referendum proposed by county administrator Ed Hunzeker will ask the electorate to consider a half-cent sales tax to generate $23 million to pay for local, indigent health care. Manatee County now pays for community health care through property taxes and the fund will run out in 2015. The additional sales tax could generate enough revenue to cover the health care fund and more, according to Hunzeker.

Along with funding indigent health care, Hunzeker is proposing to reduce property taxes in municipalities where there is a city-funded police department by excluding the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office patrol costs.

He believes the plan will reduce property taxes by about $10 million — 26 percent savings will be realized by municipal taxpayers in the county and an approximate 13 percent reduction in property taxes will aid taxpayers in unincorporated areas.

Also proposed for the ballot will be a tax abatement issue that will give the county board the ability to offer property tax relief to qualified companies that plan to either invest or create new jobs in the county.

If approved by a majority of voters, the half-cent sales tax would apply to the first $5,000 of a taxable sale or purchase.

Eligible uses are specific for the proposed half-cent sales tax. Florida statutes require the resulting funds to be spent on health care costs for qualified residents of the county.

The board is expected to make a decision on whether to hold the referendum on June 18, move it to Aug. 6 or to August 2014.

According to Hunzeker, the earlier referendum date would allow plans to proceed on a two-year budget that includes property tax relief.

The later date is preferred by some board members to allow voters more time to become familiar with the issue. Some board members suggested delaying the referendum to the 2014 primary date to defray special election costs.

Details on the plan to reduce property taxes are available at www.mymanatee.org/howwillwepay.

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