Bradenton -- County Administrator Ed Hunzeker says he has a plan. At Tuesday's BOCC Workshop, he revealed how Manatee County could lower property taxes and pay for indigent health care with one referendum. He says that if passed, the half-cent sales tax increase could make it happen, and the vote could be as soon as this June.
"It's a diversification of revenue sources with a broader base of payers," Hunzeker said,
A half-cent sales tax will buy you a 26 percent discount on property taxes for those in the cities, and a 13 percent slash in property taxes for those owning real estate in the unincorporated areas of Manatee County.
The property tax relief will come in part from moving the Manatee County Sheriff's Office patrol cost from city residents, who already pay for police services, to the Municipal Services Taxing Unit in the amount of $28 million.
Dollars to supply indigent health care will come in part from the half-cent sales tax increase, if the referendum passes, instead of coming from property taxes, as is currently the case. The estimated $23 million annual gain would also replace the depleting health care fund.
The current 6.5 percent sales tax would rise to 7 percent. Moneys generated by the new tax would be designated to pay for indigent health care only.
Most of the county's indigent show-up at the emergency room for healthcare needs, costing many times the amount a doctor's clinic would charge. Diverting the ER visits to a primary care facility would save the county millions of dollars annually.
Currently, just property owners are footing the bill for indigent health care, while a sales tax would spread it out to where everyone contributes, says Hunzeker.
Whether the Affordable Health Care Act arrives alive or not, all stakeholders agree that there needs to be a plan. Hunzeker says, "It's better then not having a plan."
On Tuesday, March 12, at 9 a.m., Manatee County Commissioners will meet to discuss the details of the half-cent sales tax increase.
Call (941) 748-4501 to give your input or visit the commission's website to email you commissioner.
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