Windermere seeks answers related to one-cent sales tax

Town leaders are still seeking answers regarding revenue distribution, project prioritization and other concerns related to the proposed tax increase.

  • By
  • | 1:23 p.m. March 11, 2020
  • Southwest Orange
  • News
  • Share

The town of Windermere’s transportation-related needs can be summed up in one word: relief.

As in, the town is in need of relief from the cut-through traffic that crowds its streets.

Cut-through traffic was just one of the matters discussed at March 10 Windermere Town Council meeting. Town leaders and Orange County representatives held a discussion about the proposed one-cent sales tax increase to pay for transportation and infrastructure-related needs in the county. 

“For a municipality that has an overall budget of about $6 million a year, we typically put about $400,000 away for those road improvement projects,” Town Manager Robert Smith said. “We have to save for years on end in order to make those (road) improvements. But with this initiative, hopefully Orange County recognizes that a lot of the (traffic) impacts that we’re dealing with at this time are a direct result to other jurisdictions and the approvals they have done over the years.”

Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings has called for the proposed sales tax increase to be placed on the November ballot to help fund transportation needs throughout the county. The proposed tax also gives those needs a dedicated funding source for years to come. Prior to going to vote by the citizens, the Orange County Commission must vote to place the sales-tax increase on the ballot.

If approved, the increase could generate about $596 million each year, with 51% of those revenues generated by tourists. The tax would be applied to retail goods and services costing less than $5,000 but not prescription drugs, essential grocery items or utilities. 

The revenue generated from the increase would help fund Lynx, SunRail and other transportation-related needs. Revenues would be divided among four areas of focus: transit (30 to 40%); roadways (30 to 40%); safety (10 to 15%); and recurring operational cost (10 to 15%). The manner in which the revenues related to roadways and recurring operation costs will be divided among the county and the municipalities was a cause for concern among town leaders.

“The issues we’ve had and we’ve discussed … comes down to the allocation of the money within these pots,” Smith said. “We’re asking for recognition for the fact that, especially with the town of Windermere, we have proven that the traffic we’re experiencing have direct correlation to the approvals of Orange County. With the Horizon West development and the continued approvals of Horizon West development, we have shown in a (traffic) study that … 75% of that traffic is cutting through and that’s the origin destination.”

Smith said the town also has concerns regarding the transportation initiative oversight structure. There would be three bodies that oversee transportation initiatives in the county: the Technical Committee, Transportation Initiative Oversight Board and the County Commission. 

“We believe we should have a say in how some of that money should be spent,” Smith said. “That say should not be diluted in a lot of political back and forth when it comes to … (an) advisory committee, a review committee and then it finally goes to the (County Commission). We’re looking for a fair and equitable way … for us to make sure that projects that we’ve submitted will be on an actual list — a priority list — that will actually be funded.”

Orange County will hold its second work session regarding the proposed sales-tax increase March 24.



Latest News