Manatee Co. seeking sales tax hike to pay for road, public safety upgrades

Measure will be on Nov. ballot
Posted at 6:29 PM, Aug 01, 2016
and last updated 2016-08-01 18:29:14-04
Roads are in such need of upgrades in Manatee County that leaders there are asking taxpayers for some extra cash. 

DeBernard Woodie gets in his car every day prepared to sit in traffic.  He's lived in Manatee County nearly all his life and has seen how the area has grown.

"There's been a lot of accidents on this road.  It's just definitely jam packed," Woodie said.

A lot of drivers in the area share those frustrations.  Busy roads like Canal are made worse, with no shoulders and no sidewalks.

"It is a safety hazard in general.  So we're hoping we can work out something with the county to make this come together," Woodie said.


"It's just a perfect storm of population growth boom without a good way to pay for those aging assets," said Nick Azzara, Manatee County spokesperson.


The county's answer is asking voters for a new half cent sales tax increase in November. It would raise almost $30 million a year. More than 70 percent of it would be used for transportation upgrades. If approved, tourists would end up paying about a third of that. The average resident would pay about $5 per month more in sales tax.

"I'd pay $10 to have better roads," Woodie said.

An interactive website is now up at, helping residents navigate exactly where the proposed improvements are located. And cities could choose to add street projects later, too.

There is one big challenge with the ballot measure for roads though. The Manatee County School District is also asking voters this fall to extend a half cent sales tax. The county hopes people won't choose one or the other, but instead, pick both.


"This is a quality of life issue for all of Manatee County, whether schools or parks and roads and that kind of thing. Overall, the idea is that we're investing in the future of Manatee County, and both of these issues are good for Manatee County residents and visitors," Azzara said.


If the sales tax increase is approved, Manatee's sales tax would become even with neighboring counties at 7 percent. On top of road improvements, it would also pay for public safety programs and park upgrades.