Enthusiasm for the two proposed half-penny sales-tax measures is much higher on the north end of Santa Rosa County than in Navarre or Gulf Breeze.
As the Aug. 30 election nears, yard signs are easily noticeable in the Milton area, where the planned new county courthouse would be built with revenue from one of the measures, but they’re barely in evidence in neighborhoods further south.
“A house divided,” said Judy Morehead, president and chief executive officer of the Navarre Beach Area Chamber of Commerce. Her organization endorses the half-penny tax designated on the ballot for new infrastructure, such as patrol cars for sheriff’s deputies.
The lack of unified support is evident not only among potential voters, but also in the volunteer campaign supporting the so-called local option sales taxes, which are paid by both residents and visitors when they make various purchases.
Moving Santa Rosa Forward, a group that’s leading a supposedly countywide campaign for the taxes, has collected more than $35,000 from a dozen donors. Yet all but two of the financial backers are from Milton or Pace, or represent companies in Pensacola that could eventually qualify as contractors for the courthouse.
“The division between north and south Santa Rosa County goes back many years,” said Yvonne Harper, president of the Holley by the Sea Improvement Association. “The county’s decision to put the new courthouse in Milton just exacerbates the divide.”
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