County Commission

The Palm Beach County Commission on Tuesday is expected to decide whether to keep alive a sales tax increase proposal that could generate $110 million a year to pay for road fixes and other infrastructure improvements. (By Andy Reid / March 10, 2014)

A proposed Palm Beach County sales tax increase faces a key hurdle Tuesday, when the County Commission could decide to keep it alive or say “no new taxes.”

If approved, the half-cent-per-dollar sales tax increase could generate about $110 million a year to pay for road and bridge repairs and a backlog of other infrastructure upgrades.

The measure would raise the county's sales tax to 6-1/2 cents from 6 cents per dollar.

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The proposal calls for a three-year sales tax boost, lasting from January 2015 until December 2017.

Voters ultimately decide whether to raise the sales tax.

If the County Commission agrees to put the proposed sales tax increase on the ballot, it would go before voters during the Nov. 4 election.

Sales tax increase opponents say that the county should be making better use of the money it has, not raising taxes.

The county’s practice of diverting roads money to cover other expenses during the economic downturn was a “management failing” that shouldn’t lead to a sales tax increase, according to Fred Scheibl, of the Palm Beach County Taxpayer Action Board, a Tea Party offshoot.

Of the $110 million the sales tax increase is estimated to generate, about $66 million would go toward county projects with $44 million going to cities where the taxes are collected.

The county proposes using the money for road and pathway improvements, small bridge and culvert replacements, drainage improvements and upgrading traffic lights.

The county suggests spending about $12 million a year for resurfacing portions of roads including, Linton Boulevard, Camino Real, Jog Road, Military Trail and Congress Avenue.

County commissioners in December decided to drop parks improvements and environmental projects from the spending planned from a potential sales tax increase.

Also in December, the school district opted not to team up with the county on a sales tax increase referendum that could have paid for improvements to both school facilities and county infrastructure. County officials had envisioned a partnership with the school district making a sales tax increase more attractive to voters.

The County Commission meets at 9:30 a.m. Tuesday at the county governmental center at 301 N. Olive Avenue in downtown West Palm Beach.