Thursday, November 5, 2020
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The Villages

Sumter County abolishes tax that helps fund music at town squares

Sumter County commissioners Tuesday night abolished one tax, extended another and set the stage for an increase next year on a third.

They voted to eliminate the tourist development tax, which provides money for tourism-related events such as Villages town square entertainment, high school sporting events, clay shooting competitions and the annual hoedown sponsored by The Villages Homeowners Association.

Grants allocated for the current fiscal year will continue, including $120,000 for entertainment at the Lake Sumter Landing and Brownwood town squares. The Spanish Springs town square is in Lake County.

A $2.4-million fund surplus will be allocated for a roof on the horse arena at the county fairgrounds. County officials say the roof will make the arena suitable for other events such as concerts.

Commissioner Doug Gilpin, who proposed abolishing the tax two months ago, said it would help tourism-related businesses that lost money during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Visitors who stay at hotels and campgrounds pay the tax instead of county residents.

Commissioners voted to eliminate the tax instead of suspending it with the understanding that it could be reinstated if needed in the future. The tax originally was proposed in 2004.

They also voted to extend the 2-cent-per-gallon local gas tax, which was last extended in 2008, through 2027. The tax was set to expire at the end of this year.

Gas tax revenue pays for road improvements by the county and municipalities. The money is distributed by the Florida Department of Revenue. Under the current tax extension, the county, which is responsible for building and repairing major roads, receives nearly 90 percent of the funds.

Another ordinance to consolidate two Sumter County fire districts into one could set the stage for an increase next year in the fire protection levy.

Residents of both The Villages fire district and the Sumter County district pay $124 per improved land parcel for fire protection.

Approval of the consolidation ordinance will simplify assessments and tax collection, said County Administrator Bradley Arnold.

He said it also makes it easier to increase the current cap of $125 per improved parcel if an increase in the fire protection fee is needed next year. The ordinance takes effect on Jan. 1.

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