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Martin County - Half-Cent Sales Tax Increase to Buy Land for Conservation Won't Be on the November Ballot

2021 Martin County Commissioners.png
Photo courtesy martin.fl.us
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The commissioners declined to act on a motion to place the tax increase on the November ballot, despite a poll showing a majority of respondents would accept the increase.

Martin County - Tuesday April 3, 2022: The Martin County Board of County Commissioners on Tuesday evening declined to act on a proposal to put a half-cent sales tax increase on the November ballot to buy land for conservation. The commissioners declined to act on a motion to place the tax increase on the November ballot, despite a poll showing a majority of respondents would accept the increase.

The Guardians of Martin County presented the results of a poll showing more than half of 300 residents who responded would accept the proposed half cent sales tax increase if the question was put to them on the November ballot.

Their goal was to raise as much as $750-million over 10 years to buy 45-thousand acres now in private hands. Greg Braun, the Guardians Executive Director, made his case to the Commission Tuesday Night.

“The Guardians have been successful in getting funding and conducting polling. And overall we have been heartened by the positive level of response," said Braun. "So we hope that you’ll give the voters of Martin County the opportunity to support that.”

Besides Braun, only one other member of the public showed up to comment on the proposal to put the tax increase on the ballot. Tom Bauch a Stuart resident, opposed. “Number 21, inflation. March was one of the worst inflation months in history. Whole sale prices were up 11%, retail prices were up 8.5%." said Bauch.

That was enough for the commissioners, who despite their sympathy for buying up land to preserve the rural character of Martin County, now is not the time, said

Commissioner Stacey Hetherington - “I think unfortunately in the world right now we have an inflationary crisis and I’m afraid that now is not the time.”

Commissioner Harold Jenkins - “I’ve had plenty of public parking lot conversations and they’ve all asked me to put it on pause for the next couple of years.”

Only Commissioner Sarah Heard favored putting it on the ballot in November to let the voters decide. “I’ve talked to hundreds of Martin County voters and overwhelmingly their 2 biggest concerns are over development and clean water, which tells me that people would really support this ballot initiative," said Heard. "So I’m going to move in favor of the item.”

Commissioner Doug Smith - “Commissioner Heard has a motion. I didn’t hear a second of that motion. There certainly seems to be indicated 3 other commissioners that weren’t going to support. For the lack of a second, and I don’t hear a second, Commissioner Heard’s motion will fail and we will move on.”