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Photo by: Tim Freed - Winter Park businesses would stand to gain from a more educated workforce, according to the Winter Park Chamber of Commerce, which is backing a half-penny sales tax that would go toward educating the area's next generation of emp...
Winter Park / Maitland Observer Thursday, Jul. 24, 2014 5 years ago

Winter Park Chamber votes in favor of half-penny sales tax

Chamber supports sales tax
by: Tim Freed Managing Editor

An unlikely Winter Park business booster has shown its support for Orange County’s latest sales tax.

The Winter Park Chamber of Commerce backed the Orange County half penny sales tax July 16 as its board of directors voted unanimously in support.

The board of directors, made up of 19 members, cited local students as the biggest factor in its decision to back the tax, which would support Orange County Public Schools.

The sales tax has been in effect since 2003, drawing in $1.7 billion as of June 2013. It’s expected to draw $2.1 billion in revenue over the next 10 years, according to a report from OCPS.

“I think the board saw it as common sense,” said Board Chairman Tom Kelly. “The chamber has a long history of supporting education in Winter Park, from Rollins College down to the elementary schools.”

“Winter Park has to provide the students with the tools to make them successful.”

The sales tax would support a rapidly growing local school system. The Orange County School District currently ranks as the 10th largest school district in the nation and the fourth largest in Florida, according to the resolution voted on by the Chamber.

A facilities condition assessment by OCPS revealed more than $2 billion in unmet facility needs over the next decade, according to a 2013 OCPS report.

Funding goals won’t be met for future construction and renovation without the tax, according to the OCPS Construction Oversight and Value Engineering Committee.

Before coming to a vote the Chamber received guidance from its Council of Leaders, a group of past board members, former mayors and community figures. Local businesses played a part in the decision as well.

It comes down to promoting future leaders, said Chamber President Patrick Chapin in a press release.

“The Winter Park Chamber of Commerce recognizes the value of great schools and the need to provide an educational environment where students can thrive,” Chapin said in the release.

“Today’s students are tomorrow’s workforce. It’s important from an economic development perspective to invest in these future innovators, entrepreneurs and community leaders.”

Young residents seeing success in the future also means a positive outlook for local businesses in the long run, Kelly said.

“I think the positives outweigh the negatives,” Kelly said. “It’s going to make people successful in the community. If you have people who have successful communities, your business will be successful.”

The Chamber spoke of its position at the recent Good Morning Winter Park Program and saw no opposition to the sales tax, Kelly said.

“I’m like most people in Winter Park: I don’t want taxes,” Kelly said. “But when it comes to making people successful. I’m all for that.”

Orange County voters will have the chance to decide on the half penny sales tax in the primary election on Aug. 26.

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