Listening to voters is crucial

Increasing taxes seems to be the go-to response for many politicians, including Santa Rosa County Commission Chairman Don Salter, who’s been discussing a hike in the local gas tax to fund transportation projects.

That would be a copycat move. Last January, a similar increase went into effect in Escambia County.

We suggest the Santa Rosa Board of County Commissioners instead emulate our neighboring county by holding meetings outside normal work hours. That would provide the citizenry with opportunities to attend commission meetings without having to take off time from work.

Of course, it’s a useless gesture if the board isn’t willing to listen to constituents.

Many voters took time to come speak out at meetings this summer, warning commissioners against placing three potential courthouse locations on the Nov. 4 ballot measure to fund a new county courthouse.

Over and over again citizens told commissioners adding three sites to the ballot would be confusing and likely cause the measure to fail.

We think they were right and wish the board would have done a better job listening – because we do need a new courthouse.

We hope the commission will at least take the Nov. 4 election results into consideration when mulling another attempt to temporarily increase the local option sales tax (LOST) to build a courthouse – voters said downtown Milton should be the site for a future courthouse.

Did the board learn a lesson from the rejection of the courthouse referendum? Will they listen to voters about the site?

Well, we should have an idea Jan. 28 when the board has scheduled a workshop to address such unfunded projects.

At that workshop Salter may propose other tax increases to boost county revenues. His fellow commissioners need to keep in mind that Salter has nothing to lose. He’s on his way out to pasture and doesn’t have to worry about alienating voters.

On the other hand, if the other commissioners want a future in local government or beyond, they would be wise to thoroughly evaluate each issue and propose creative ways to generate revenue or reduce costs, not blindly follow Salter’s autopilot to higher taxation.

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