Half Cent Sales Tax Starts; Beach Ordinances Clarified in Walton - WMBB News 13 - The Panhandle's News Leader

Half Cent Sales Tax Starts; Beach Ordinances Clarified in Walton County

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Changes and Clarification Proposed to Walton Beach Activities Ordinance

Millions of people come to visit Walton County Beaches each year, but there is some confusion over some beach rules. Walton County Commissioners are trying to clear up that confusion.

The ordinance is made to clarify, not change the current law.

County PIO, Louis Svehla, said there was confusion over the current ordinance that lumps various beach activities together, including "Leave No Trace" laws, turtle nesting and beach vendors' rules.

Their goal is to make the law easier to understand and more enforceable.

The biggest change deals with visitor's pets on the beach, primarily dogs. If passed, visitors could pay $75 dollars for a 30 day pass. Residents currently pay $30 dollars a month.

Additionally, the proposed law clears up beach vendor rules. Vendors are not allowed to use electricity on the beach unless they go through the state. The law claims that violators would incur a fine rather than be forced off the beach.

The law also seeks to protect turtle nests from vendor merchandise such as chairs and umbrellas by enforcing a 10 foot barrier.

"We had a lot of call from the public, from a lot of the local business owners that have our chairs and deliver those types of things in those beach based businesses. They said, "You need to look at this, we can understand it and you can't enforce it." So, it was really a community reason to go back and look at this ordinance," said Svehla.

The ‘Beach Activities Ordinance' will come before the commission at their next meeting on January 8th.


Walton Half Cent Sales Tax Begins

Walton County residents are now paying a half cent more in sales taxes at the store. The money will fund a second Highway 331 bridge.

The tax was at the center of controversy when it was voted on last May, but it was the more popular option than a toll. Voters approved the tax increase 58 to 41 percent.

In June of 2012, the County approved a 75 million dollar bank loan for the flexibility of paying it back, plus interest, in 15 years.

The half cent sales tax will go towards paying back the loan, which should total to around $100 million with interest.

The $75 million will go along with the $102 million the Department of Transportation offered to build the bridge, should a sales tax increase be approved.

FDOT has also promised to four lane Highway 331 to I-10. 

Construction has already begun on the expansion, and is expected to be completed in 2015.

The hope is that the project will increase Walton County's hurricane evacuation time; currently, the 2nd slowest in the state.

County PIO, Louis Svelah explained how the sales tax will work.

"The actual tax started January 1st, so it's going to be half cent regular sales tax on those items that are now normally taxed with sales tax. So, your prescriptions, those type items, some of your food items that aren't normally taxed, you won't see any addition rise in that. Anything that you are that you are normally paying a half cent more will be added to that sales tax," he said/

The referendum states the tax will sunset once the loan is paid back in full in 12-15 years.