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Local News

LOST Workshops Being Held Around Escambia

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Escambia County officials are conducting public workshops through next month, on the future of the Local Option Sales Tax. The one-cent levy – set to expire in 2017 -- is on the November 4 ballot seeking renewal for another decade.

First approved by voters in 1992 LOST, as the tax is commonly known, raises in the neighborhood of $35 million to $40 million per year through retail sales. Escambia County Commissioner Grover Robinson says LOST allows for improvements in a number of what he calls “quality of life” areas.

“We do roads, drainage work, we’ve done parks, (and) a few buildings around the community,” Robinson said. “We’ve done sheriff’s substations, we’ve bought new fire equipment, new sheriff’s vehicles and equipment. So that’s what it’s been used for.”

While the County Commission and other county officials are hosting the public hearings, they’re merely giving the facts of what the tax is and what it does. Robinson says as far as they’re concerned about this ballot issue – they’re Switzerland.

“The workshops that are going on are for educational purposes only,” Robinson said. “The County doesn’t advocate one way or the other.”

LOST is set up to continue funding county projects for another three years, but Robinson says it’s pretty much standard practice to get a head start at the ballot box on an extension. All of the proceeds are allocated on projects moving forward, including eight million dollars for a major project on Olive Road that’s scheduled to begin next year.

“We’re about to put the contract out, it will take about 18 months to be completed,” said Robinson. “That is going to be a three-lane section of roadway, with drainage, sidewalks and bike lanes. Right now, it’s kind of a scary two-lane road, where people have to walk basically in ditches on a shoulder.”

If the Local Option Sales Tax is approved for a fourth time in November, the Olive Road projects will then include upgraded lighting and a state-of-the-art retention pond. That was one suggestion from flood control expert David Waggonner of New Orleans, who spoke at a mid-July storm water symposium at the Pensacola Bay Center.

Escambia County Commissioner Grover Robinson also reminds residents that they’re not the only ones paying that penny – the tax is also levied in purchases made by tourists. 

The next public workshop on the Local Option Sales Tax is set for next Tuesday, September 30 at 5:30 p-m at Lexington Terrace, on South Old Corry Field Road.