Hello fellow citizens. I wanted to give you information on most recent developments. On Feb. 18, the Osceola County Commission voted to hold a special election on May 21.  The single-subject ballot will allow voters to decide whether or not to increase the local sales tax by 1 percent.

Right now, Osceola County has more than a $1.1 billion backlog of road construction needs. More than $250 million is needed to fill in existing sidewalk gaps, and $445 million is needed to build new recreational bicycle and pedestrian trails for residents, and also for pedestrian safety and biking infrastructure.  Also in consideration is the shortfall we have for our mass transit and public transportation. If passed, this surtax will raise more than $2.1 billion over the next 30 years, and will be used only within Osceola County, including the cities of Kissimmee and St. Cloud.  The surtax would not be eligible for toll road projects. However, it will be eligible for Public Transportation, including Lynx and SunRail. 

Another factor is since visitors pay sales tax on local retail purchases, an increased sales tax alleviates some of the tax burden on residents.

In addition to funding needed road improvements, the surtax will provide for pedestrian and biking safety projects as well as additional investments in trails, technology to improve intersection operations and needed bus and transit expansion.

As those of us who are residents already know, Osceola County is growing. Right now, we’re the second fastest growing county in the state.  To be sure that developers pay their fair share and to offset the cost of transportation impacts specifically caused by new homes and commercial development, all new development pays county impact and mobility fees. Osceola County already has the highest residential development fees in Florida – double what Seminole County charges, and nearly 45 percent higher than Orange County. But by state statute, these fees cannot be used to fund the county’s previously-existing transportation needs.

As your commissioner, I can give you information you need to be sure you make a decision that best suits your needs.  Your vote matters.  Please save the date, do as much research as you need and please take the time to vote.

Whether voting in person, via absentee ballot or through early voting, please add this important single-subject election event to your calendar. Your vote matters! For more information, including a list of eligible roads, please visit www.Osceola.Org, and click on the front-page “One Cent Surtax” banner, or call 407-742-ROAD.

And as always, please feel free to share any of your concerns, ideas or information by calling my office at 407-742-2000, or by email to Peggy.Choudhry@osceola.org.   

Peggy Choudhry is an Osceola County commissioner representing district 1.