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East County Wednesday, Jun. 19, 2013 4 years ago

Voters split on referendum votes

by: Pam Eubanks Senior Editor

MANATEE COUNTY — Manatee County soon may have another way to attract new businesses and encourage existing ones to expand.

Manatee County residents voted June 18 to allow the Manatee County Board of County Commissioners to grant property-tax exemptions to new or existing businesses that are expected be high-impact and high-paid, with 60% of their revenue coming from outside the region.

The measure allows companies to receive tax beaks in an amount up to 100% of property taxes owed, for up to 10 years. County staff and the EDC will work together to recommend which businesses should qualify for the tax relief.

More than 52% of constituents voted in favor of the measure.

Constituents, however, voted against a half-percent sales tax proposal intended to fund indigent health care, with 60.81% of voters opposing the measure.

Manatee County Administrator Ed Hunzeker had touted the sales surtax as a way to diversify the county’s tax base, while continuing to fund health care for indigent Manatee County residents.

The county spends about $23 million annually to fund indigent care, of which $9 million comes from a health trust fund provided for by the 1984 sale of Manatee Memorial Hospital and the other $14 million from property taxes. The trust fund will be depleted by 2015.

Under Hunzeker’s proposal, the tax would have taken effect Jan. 1, 2014, and would have been collected on the first $5,000 of a taxable purchase. The tax would have been used to fund the $23 million annual costs for the care of indigent Manatee County residents.

Mike Bennett, Manatee’s new Supervisor of Elections, said the special referendum election “went outstanding,” with no delays or glitches reported.

Seven polling locations served dual precincts, because some regular voting venues, including churches, were unavailable due to scheduling conflicts.

Bennett said about 18% of Manatee’s registered voters turned out — a typical figure for a non-presidential election.

Contact Pam Eubanks at [email protected].


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