Santa Rosa County's County Administrator
Address:
6495 Caroline St, Suite M
Milton, FL 32570
Email:
Board of County Commissioners
Phone:
(850) 983-1877
Fax:
(850) 983-1856

Office Hours:
8:00 am - 4:30 pm

  • General Information
  • Timeline
  • Judicial Center Q & A
  • Local Option Sales Tax Q & A
Voters Asked to Weigh in on Possible New Judicial Center in November

The current Santa Rosa County Courthouse is located in downtown Milton. Built in 1927, the building size is no longer sufficient for all the necessary courthouse functions. The design of the building creates security issues for the public and staff, and the parking, heating and cooling system, and telephone and computer network infrastructure are no longer adequate for daily operations. A new facility that can serve our fast growing county today, and up to 75 years in the future, is needed.

Since 2000, the Santa Rosa County Commission has been discussing the location and funding for a new judicial center. After more than two years of meetings and research, voters in Santa Rosa County will have the opportunity to decide if a proposed county-wide one cent local option sales tax should be adopted to fund a new judicial center and if approved, where the new facility will be located through four ballot measures (click here to see ballot language).

Proposed Judicial Center & Penny Sales Tax - Printer Friendly Information


Click on the image above to see ballot language.
Navarre Press - Courthouse Problems Info Graphic

Progress + Promise Show on the Courthouse with Commissioner Lynchard

The Santa Rosa County Commission will hold six town hall meetings for residents who wish to learn more about the ballot measures:

  • Monday, Sept. 15 at 6 p.m. - Pace Community Center, 5976 Chumuckla Hwy. in Pace
  • Tuesday, Sept. 23 at 6 p.m. - Board Chambers, 6495 Caroline St. in Milton
  • Tuesday, Sept. 30 at 9 a.m. - Tiger Point Community Center, 1370 Tiger Park Ln. in Gulf Breeze
  • Tuesday, Sept. 30 at 6 p.m. - Jay Community Center, 5259 Booker St. in Jay
  • Tuesday, Oct. 7 at 6 p.m. - Navarre Visitor Center, 8543 Navarre Pkwy. in Navarre
  • Monday, Oct. 20 at 6 p.m. - Tiger Point Community Center, 1370 Tiger Park Ln. in Gulf Breeze


10 Key Facts

   1. Ongoing costs to upgrade, maintain and repair the current courthouse are growing.

Since 2003, repairs, additions, renovations and settlements have totaled more than $3.3 million.

   2. Voters will have the opportunity to voice their preference for where a possible
        new judicial facilityshould be built.

In three non-binding referendum items, voters have the option of voting yes or no for each of the three possible locations for a new facility:

Estimated costs for each location range from $49.7 million to $50.7 million (click here to see a breakdown of costs and site comparison) or $318.58 to $325 per square foot. The proposed floor plan design of 156,000 square feet is the same for each possible location. The difference in costs can be attributed to the price of land, available utilities, traffic modifications and foundation requirements due to differences in soil. The estimates include architect and engineer fees, permits, construction, fixtures, furniture, and equipment.

For cost comparison, recent examples of other county courthouses include:
  • Okaloosa County Courthouse - opened in 2011 with 84,000 square feet, at a cost of $26,898,526 or $320.22 per square foot.
  • Marion County Courthouse - opened in 2010 with 150,000 square feet, at a cost of $40,907,008 or $272.27 per square foot.

   3. Voters will be asked if they support a one percent local option sales tax for five years.

Often referred to as a "one cent" sales tax, it would increase sales tax by one percent. If approved, the sales tax will be limited to five years. It would begin on Jan. 1, 2015 and end at midnight on Dec. 31, 2019. It could not be extended without going on the ballot again. This is a binding referendum and requires the judicial center to be built in the location selected by voters via the three non-binding referendums on the ballot.

It is estimated that the sales tax will raise $10-12 million per year. The commission will evaluate the funds generated each year. If the revenue is greater than our estimates and the balance is paid before the five years, the commission will vote to terminate the sales tax early in accordance with Florida law.

By statue, the county must share local option sales tax revenue with local municipalities. Based on an estimated LOST annual revenue of $13 million, the city of Gulf Breeze would receive approximately $480,000, the city of Milton would receive $755,000, and the town of Jay would receive $44,000 each year. The city of Milton has indicated they would commit up to half of any LOST proceeds to the judicial facility project only if the downtown Milton site is selected by voters. Gulf Breeze and Jay would use the proceeds towards municipal projects.

   4. No special projects can be included.

The funds collected by the county could only be used towards a judicial facility at the location selected by voters and would be required to end on Dec. 31, 2019.

   5. You pay an extra penny sales tax every time you shop in Pensacola.

Things currently exempt from sales tax like food, medicine, mortgage payments and car payments will not be taxed. A local option sales tax is also limited to the first $5,000 and the maximum county local option sales tax for any single large ticket item is $50.

   6. It won't increase the cost of essential or large ticket items.

Things currently exempt from sales tax like food, medicine, mortgage payments and car payments will not be taxed. Sales tax is also limited to the first $5,000 and the maximum tax for any single large ticket item is $50.

   7. Everyone contributes, not just home owners.

The sales tax would apply to anyone shopping in the county, including visitors. The UWF HAAS Center roughly estimates that eight percent of local sales tax is paid by tourists. The true amount paid by outsiders is likely higher as the estimates do not include all money spent by tourists, for example at restaurants, or when residents of Escambia or Okaloosa counties stop in Santa Rosa and make a purchase.

   8. An average household may pay about $120 a year more in sales tax.

The true cost of a one percent local sales tax to individual households is dependent on income and spending habits. However, based on the U.S. Census Bureau’s median Santa Rosa County household income of $57,491 with an estimated 2.65 people residing and using data from the U.S. Internal Revenue Service's 2013 Sales Tax Deduction Calculator, a household in Milton pays approximately $795.17 per year in state and local sales taxes. Using that figure, it can be estimated that the addition of a one cent sales tax per household will be approximately $122.33 per year or $10.19 per month.

   9. A sales tax can be less expensive than raising property tax.

One penny can raise as much revenue as 1.7 mils of property tax. A local option sales tax is estimated to raise as much as $12 million for a new judicial center annually versus approximately $7 million annually raised by one mil of property tax. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the median home value in Santa Rosa County is $166,300. A 1.7 mill increase in county ad valorem taxes would mean $197.71* in additional taxes each year with no mandatory sunset of the increase.

*Based on taxable value of $116,000 with $50,000 homestead exemption.

   10. Any combination of yes or no votes is possible on the four ballot items.

For example, you can vote yes for two locations and no for one, yes for all three or no for all three locations. Choosing "no" on the sales tax item does not prevent you from voicing a location preference on the other three ballot measures.

 
Early voting begins Monday, Oct. 20 and runs through Nov. 1, 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Polls are open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Nov. 4. For more information on voting, visit www.votesantarosa.com.
 
Proposed Judicial Center Commission Action Timeline

HOK Reports 2000-2001


Nov. 7 & 10, 2011 Commission Meetings - The commission directed staff to work with HOK, Inc. to update the courthouse facility needs assessment completed in 2001 and 2007.


Dec. 5 & 8, 2011 Commission Meetings - The commission accepted the fee summary submitted by HOK, Inc. for concept design and programming update for a new judicial facility. The plan would include meetings with judges, court administration, the clerk of court, state attorney, public defender, sheriff and bar association to determine their current and future needs in order to update the 2007 plan prepared by HOK. The plan would include a budget estimate for construction and presentation of their findings to the board in the spring of 2012.


Mar. 8, 2012 Commission Meeting - Duncan Broyd of HOK, Inc. presented the concept design and programing update. The plan included the space and building options need for a new judicial center based on the interviews with judges, court administration, clerk of courts, state attorney, public defender, sheriff and bar association. An estimated nine acres was needed for the design. Based on two recent courthouse examples, he estimated that cost to construct a new judicial facility at approximately $32 million at today's prices, and did not include land and site development costs.


July 11, 2013 Judicial Center Special Workshop - At this meeting, the board reviewed the needs identified by HOK in 2012 including the need for a building that was approximately 146,000 square feet and included growth space for future additions. County Administrator Hunter Walker stated that the issues that will need to be determined are:

  • Should the county pursue a judicial facility at this time?
  • Where should the facility be located?
  • How should it be funded?
  • Should the project be delivered as a construction management or design build project?

The commission asked staff to reengage with HOK to update the facilities needs assessment, determine if phasing would be an appropriate option, and engage the court administration and clerk of courts in the process. A travel time study to help determine a central site location was also assigned to staff.


July 22, 2013 Commission Meeting - Duncan Broyd from HOK, Inc. made a presentation on the recommended process for moving forward with a new judicial center. The process would be completed in three phases - Phase 1 will consist of site identification and selection, Phase 2 will include the preliminary design and project cost estimates, and Phase II is public meetings and presentations.


Aug. 5 & 8, 2013 Meetings - The commission discussed and approved a contract with HOK, Inc. for site identification and design services for a proposed judicial facility which was discussed at the July 22, 2013 meeting. HOK stated that the courthouse would need nine to 12 acres and that the shape of the land would impact the shape of the building. Also of consideration were traffic access, street frontage, utilities, cost effectiveness and location for a 100-year vision.


Aug. 19, 2013 - The board discussed areas for a proposed judicial facility and reviewed information on travel times of key locations throughout the county. Staff identified the intersections of Avalon and U.S. Hwy. 90 and Avalon and Commerce as being the center of the travel time estimates.


Aug. 22, 2013 - The commission directed staff to assemble a list of potential parcels with a minimum of eleven acres within a two mile radius of the U.S. Hwy. 90 and Avalon Boulevard intersection for potential judicial facility sites.


Sept. 9 & 12, 2013 - The board reviewed the property in the target area and contacted the property owners of four potential sites, two on Hwy. 90, one on Dogwood Boulevard, and one on Avalon Boulevard. To make cast the widest net in the identified area, the board directed staff to develop and RFP, or request for proposal, for sites within a two and 1/2 mile radius and consisting of 12-20 acres.


Sept. 23 & 26, 2013 - The commission reviewed the proposed RFP developed by staff and approved issuing the RFP for property for a proposed judicial site.


Oct. 12 & 17, 2013 - RFP legal notice was advertised in the Press Gazette, Navarre Press and Gulf Breeze News. The RFP was open and available for 30 days on the county website.


Nov. 12, 2013 - Deadline for RFPs. Six proposals received.


Dec. 9, 2013 - The commission discussed the six site proposals received from the RFP process. Commissioners Williamson and Lynchard abstained for this item due to personal conflicts with the properties being considered. The item was moved to Dec. 12 meeting.


Dec. 12, 2013 - The commission selected four sites to move forward with and directed staff to work with HOK, Inc. & Hatch Mott MacDonald to create a comparative analysis of the four properties which included the JDL of Santa Rosa, LLC; BTF of Florida, LLC; Coldwell Banker Commercial for Charter Bank, and Neal & Company proposed sites.


Jan. 21 - Michael Broussard of Hatch Mott McDonald presented to the board a matrix developed analyzing the four sites selected in the Dec. 12, 2013 meeting. The board moved the item to the Jan. 23 agenda with the understanding that they would prioritize the list to the two best locations after considering updated number on traffic concurrency.


Jan. 23 - The commission selected moving forward with the evaluation process of the Coldwell Banker site on U.S. Hwy. 90 and the JDL of Santa Rosa LLC site on Avalon Boulevard. The evaluation would include a foot print for the building and estimated costs for site work and purchase of the property.


Feb. 10 - Discussion of two proposed judicial facility sites, U.S. Hwy. 90 represented by Coldwell Banker Realtors and Avalon Boulevard owned by JDL of Santa Rosa, LLC. This item was moved to Thursday's agenda


Feb. 13 - The board selected moving forward on the Coldwell Banker Realtor site on U.S. Hwy. 90 because it is centrally located, has the needed travel infrastructure, and offers the best opportunity for future growth without conflicting with residential or industrial use. The board asked staff to review layout alternatives on the property as the site offered a four tiered pricing system, with the most expensive adjacent to Hwy. 90 and becoming less expensive as it goes further back on the property.


Feb. 24 - The board reviewed three options of alternative layouts of the Coldwell Banker Property located on U.S. Hwy. 90. The parcel is large and has four pricing tiers based on the proximity to the highway. The board asked staff to research costs associated with two layouts of the eastern side of the property.


Feb. 27 - The commission voted to move forward with negotiating a contract with Coldwell Banker for the purchase of 22. 46 acres to include the U.S. Hwy. 90 - front property. By including the acreage on U.S. Hwy. 90, they would be able to direct what was built in front of the judicial center and allow room for future growth.


March 10 & 13 - HOK presented design and space options on March 10, asking the board for more specific space and location preferences in order to move forward with a design recommendation. In the March 2014 updated assessment, the facility space was more specifically identified at 156,699 square feet. HOK also brought forward a request from the clerk of court to add additional space for the clerk of court administration, archives and probation intake, increasing the estimated needed space to 180,767 square feet. However, the commission confirmed that certain functions of the clerk of court, including administration, archives and probation intake, need not be located in the judicial facility and directed the contractor to proceed with the 156,699 square feet design.

The commission also addressed concerns that the new judicial facility was not to be located on property that the county already owned. The board agreed to add a location preference option to the proposed judicial center ballot. In addition to selecting if they support a local option sales tax to fund a new judicial center, voters will have the option of voicing their preference for the U.S. Hwy. 90 property or property already owned by the county in East Milton. The contractor will now look at county owned property to select the most appropriate 22 acres and develop a second design plan and cost estimates.


March 24 & 27 - staff presented similar sized county owned property in East Milton to the board. The commission directed staff to bring research on available utilities to those properties, impacts of moving the sheriff's shooting range, impact of the future Hwy. 87 bypass, and offers of donated or reduced cost land in East Milton to the April 7 and 10 meetings.

At both the committee and regular meeting, the board discussed the potential change in property owner of the U.S. Hwy. 90 property. On March 17, the county received formal documentation that the property owned by Charter Bank was under contract with Milton Crossing, LLC. Charter Bank entered into a contract with Brian DeMaria, who later formed Milton Crossings, LLC to purchase the entire 45 acre parcel of which the county had selected 22.56 acres as a potential judicial center location. The developer has assumed the RFP terms submitted to the county by Charter Bank with the purpose of developing the remainder of the property not sold to the county.

At the March 27 meeting, a motion was passed to approve entering into a contract with Milton Crossings, LLC to purchase the U.S. Hwy. 90 property. The contract allows the county the right to cancel the contract for any reason and with escrow refund, until Nov. 21. This property will be one of two location preferences from which voters may select.

April 7 & 10 - The board discussed county owned sites and other properties located in East Milton. The commission scheduled a workshop to further discuss an East Milton location for Monday, April 21 at 6 p.m.

April 21 - Judicial Center Workshop

May 27 Judicial Center Workshop - Commissioners voted to select the property owned by William H. Byrom located on U.S. Hwy. 90 southwest of the Peter Prince Airport as the East Milton location to be placed on the November ballot. The owner has offered any 15 acres of the 47 acre parcel to the county at no cost. Voters will be able to voice their location preference of either the Byrom property or the previously selected Milton Crossing, LLC property on U.S. Hwy. 90 in Pea Ridge in addition to if they support a local option sales tax to fund a new courthouse.

June 9 & 12 - The commission added a third location, the property adjacent to the current courthouse, as a location preference and directed HOK to develop design plans and cost estimates for the downtown Milton location.  Voters will now be able to select their location preference of the Byrom/U.S. Hwy. 90 location, the Milton Crossing, LLC/Pea Ridge location or the downtown Milton location, in addition to if they support a local option sales tax to fund a new courthouse on the November general election ballot.

July 21, 2014 Commission Meeting - Guy Thompson the Mayor, City of Milton spoke asking the commission to consider placing the new judicial center next to the current courthouse. Several residents also spoke supporting the Downtown Milton location and the process of purchasing the land needed for that location. The commission authorized advertising the necessary public hearings in August for enacting an ordinance regarding placing a local option sales tax referendum on the November ballot.

Aug. 11 & 14 - HOK presented site plans and cost estimates for the three possible locations of the judicial facility, which included floor plans and building images. Commissioners agreed that the three sites would appear on the November ballot as a non-binding referendum. Voters will be able to select their location preference of the Byrom/U.S. Hwy. 90 location, the Milton Crossing, LLC/Pea Ridge location or the downtown Milton location. Additionally, the board voted to place a one percent local options sales tax measure on the November general election ballot. If the sales tax is approved by voters, the sales tax which is one cent per each one dollar spent, would be in place for five years beginning Jan. 1, 2015.


The Santa Rosa County Commission has discussed the need for a new courthouse or judicial facility for more than 12 years. On November 5, 2002, a one percent local option sales tax referendum for a courthouse and south end annex was voted down by residents. The board again moved forward with discussions, studies, public workshops and meetings in 2006, 2007 and 2008. At a Jan. 15, 2008 meeting, the board tabled the item, believing that economic state of the country, it was not the time to move forward on the issue.

Since the Oct. 27, 2011 board meeting, the commission has steadily worked on moving forward with developing a plan to take to the citizens of Santa Rosa County. The plan will address where it would be located, how much it would cost, and if a local option sales tax was used to fund the project, how much would that tax be and how long would it be in place, through a three phase planning process.

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Proposed Judicial Center Questions and Answers

   Do we need a new courthouse?

Yes, desperately. Built in 1927, the current facility has major infrastructure problems. The major issues include:

  • Multiple entry points to the facility create security problems and public safety concerns. Multiple entry points also increase staffing and security infrastructure requirements.
  • The public and judicial staff cross paths with those in custody creating security and public safety concerns, including having to share restroom facilities.
  • Inadequate heating, air-conditioning and ventilation system.
  • The state attorney and public defender are currently located in separate county buildings.
  • The jury assembly is located in a modular building addition and creates issues with public foot traffic within the facility.
  • The inmate holding capacity is low causing sheriff deputies to make numerous trips from county jail to the courthouse.
  • Ongoing costs to upgrade, maintain and repair the current facility.
  • High level risks when considering prisoner movement within the general public, storm vulnerability, and overall security and safety of those in the building.

   What has been the process of getting where the commission is today?

The commission has been working steadily through a three-phased process since 2012 to bring a comprehensive plan to the citizens of Santa Rosa for their input (Click here for timeline).

The board finished Phase I in February, which included site identification and site selection. Based on a needs assessment and the travel time "center" of the county (Click here for travel survey from key locations and drive times), the board identified a two and a half mile radius of the intersection of U.S. Hwy. 90 and Avalon Boulevard to be the best location to serve the needs of county residents today, and 50 to 75 years in the future. A request for proposals for land in the selected radius was advertised in October and November 2013. Over a three month period, the board reviewed and compared the land available and selected a 22.46-acre parcel owned by Charter Bank on U.S. Hwy. 90 near Chantilly Way (click here to see maps and proposed site costs) at the Feb. 27 board meeting.

At the March 13 commission meeting, the commission addressed concerns that the new judicial facility was not to be located on property that the county already owned. The board agreed to add a location preference option to the proposed judicial center ballot. In addition to selecting if they support a local option sales tax to fund a new judicial center, voters will have the option of voicing their preference for the U.S. Hwy. 90 property or property yet to be selected in East Milton.

On March 17, the commission received formal notification that Charter Bank had entered into a contract with Milton Crossing, LLC to purchase the U.S. Hwy. 90 property. Charter Bank entered into a contract with Brian DeMaria, who later formed Milton Crossings, LLC to purchase the entire 45 acre parcel of which the county had selected 22.46 acres as a potential judicial center location. The developer has assumed the RFP terms submitted to the county by Charter Bank with the purpose of developing the remainder of the property not sold to the county.

At the March 24 meeting, staff presented similar sized county owned property in East Milton to the board (click here for maps). The commission directed staff to bring research on available utilities to those properties, impacts of moving the sheriff’s shooting range, impact of the future U.S. Hwy. 87 bypass, and offers of donated or reduced cost land in East Milton by Cotton Byrom and Charlie Clary to the April 7 and 10 meetings.

At the March 27 meeting, a motion was passed to approve entering into a contract with Milton Crossings, LLC to purchase the U.S. Hwy. 90 property. The contract allows the county the right to cancel the contract for any reason and with escrow refund, until Nov. 21. This property will be one of two location preferences from which voters may select.

At the May 27 Judicial Workshop, commissioners voted to select the property owned by William H. Byrom located on U.S. Hwy. 90 southwest of the Peter Prince Airport as the East Milton location to be placed on the November ballot. The owner has offered any 15 acres of the 47 acre parcel to the county at no cost. The commission next added a third location on June 12, the property adjacent to the current courthouse, as a location preference. Voters will now be able to select their location preference of the Byrom/U.S. Hwy. 90 location, the Milton Crossing, LLC/Pea Ridge location or the downtown Milton location, in addition to if they support a local option sales tax to fund a new courthouse on the November general election ballot.

Phase II was the primary design phase, where HOK developed design plans and cost estimates for the three potential locations. During this phase costs and quality standards were set, the image of the judicial center was selected and basic floor plans and design was approved. Also during this time due diligence was performed on the three properties to ensure the property meets the needs of a judicial facility, including property appraisals, environmental impact studies, site surveys, infrastructure availability, etc.

The board is now moving to Phase III which will take all the information including image, design concept, floor plans, budget, and proposed sales tax information to the citizens of the county through a series of public meetings.

At the Aug. 11 meeting, HOK presented site plans and cost estimates for the three possible locations of the judicial facility, which included floor plans and building images. At the Aug. 14 meeting, commissioners agreed that the three sites would appear on the November ballot as a non-binding referendum. Voters will be able to select their location preference of the Byrom/U.S. Hwy. 90 location, the Milton Crossing, LLC/Pea Ridge location or the downtown Milton location. Additionally, the board voted to place a one percent local options sales tax measure on the November ballot. If the sales tax is approved by voters, the sales tax which is one cent per each one dollar spent, would be in place for five years beginning Jan. 1, 2015.

The four judicial center ballot items will read as follows:

NON-BINDING REFERENDUM
"Shall a new Santa Rosa County Courthouse be constructed at a site in Pea Ridge north of Highway 90 at a location 0.75 miles west of the intersection of Highway 90 with Avalon Boulevard on a portion of Parcel 07-1N-28-0000-01500-0000, at an approximate cost of $50,700,000?"
YES ____
NO ____

NON-BINDING REFERENDUM
"Shall a new Santa Rosa County Courthouse be constructed in East Milton at a site south of Highway 90 at a location 1.64 miles west of the intersection of Highway 87 and Highway 90, on a portion of Parcel 01-1N-28-0000-00200-0000, at an approximate cost of $49,700,000?"
YES ____
NO ____

NON-BINDING REFERENDUM
"Shall a new Santa Rosa County Courthouse be constructed in downtown Milton at a site adjacent to the existing courthouse on parcels including Parcel 03-1N-28-2530-03200-0011, at an approximate cost of $50,180,000?"
YES ____
NO ____

SALES TAX FOR COURTHOUSE
"Shall a one-cent sales tax be levied to fund the construction of a new Courthouse at a location to be determined by referendum? The tax will be levied for a period of five (5) years."
____ FOR THE ONE-CENT SALES TAX
____ AGAINST THE ONE-CENT SALES TAX

    Why not build on county owned property in East Milton?

The county does own property in the Santa Rosa Industrial Park near the Peter Prince Airport and the Northwest Florida Industrial Park @ I-10, just south of I-10 on U.S. Hwy. 87. The commission chose not to proceed with proposing a judicial center on these sites because of land use compatibility, financial impacts due to loss of industrial park property, and traffic concerns.

Land uses are considered to be compatible when they can locate near each other without negatively impacting each other. Industrial uses are often "high impact" uses that can produce objectionable levels of noise, odors, vibrations, fumes, light, smoke, and other impacts on adjacent properties. A judicial facility, on the other hand, would be considered a "low impact" land use. Distancing high impact and low impact uses from each other is typically the best way to avoid negative impacts.

The county industrial parks are a unique asset to the community. They have been located, purchased, improved and regulated specifically to accommodate industrial development. Lost opportunity can occur when prime industrial land is used for non-industrial development, thereby reducing the amount of land available for industrial use. The term "opportunity cost" is an economic concept which can be applied, meaning that while using one of the industrial sites would save the county money in the purchase of land, it would cost the county a valuable limited resource - in this case developable industrial land near an interstate. In fact, the Northwest Florida Industrial Park @ I-10 and the 160 acres on Jeff Ates Road have recently completed Phase II of a three-phase process used to certify sites. The site certification is a prequalification process to ensure they are "shovel ready" for immediate development. It reduces the risks associated with development by providing detailed information about the site including price and availability, utilities, access, environmental concerns and potential development costs. While a very common practice in other states to attract industry, once certified, these properties will be two of only three certified sites in the entire state of Florida, increasing the value of the sites. If we build a judicial center on industrial land we also lose potential new jobs to our area and property tax revenue.

While traffic in East Milton around the State Road 87 corridor may not seem congested, U.S. 90 traffic through downtown Milton and across Blackwater River is extremely constrained. The Florida Department of Transportation has four traffic counters on U.S. Hwy. 90 from Stewart Street to Airport Road. The 2012 Average Annual Daily Traffic for this segment was 16,400. The maximum level of service is only 17,700.

Finally, it is important to remember the cost of land is a small fraction of the cost of the judicial center - less than five percent of the total cost. While every penny counts in today's economy, the commission thought it was most important to identify a location that was centrally located for all residents in the county and had compatible use and the infrastructure to support a new judicial facility today and many years in the future.

At the March 13 commission meeting, the commission addressed concerns that the new judicial facility was not to be located on property that the county already owned. The board agreed to add a location preference option to the proposed judicial center ballot. In addition to selecting if they support a local option sales tax to fund a new judicial center, voters will have the option of voicing their preference for the U.S. Hwy. 90 property or property already owned in by the county in East Milton. The contractor will now look at county owned property to select the most appropriate 22 acres and develop a second design plan and cost estimates.

At the March 24 meeting, staff presented similar sized county owned property in East Milton to the board ( click here for maps). The commission directed staff to bring research on available utilities to those properties, impacts of moving the sheriff's shooting range, impact of the future Hwy. 87 bypass, and offers of donated or reduced cost land in East Milton to the April 7, 10 and 21 meetings. At the At the May 27 Judicial Workshop, commissioners voted to select the property owned by William H. Byrom located on U.S. Hwy. 90 southwest of the Peter Prince Airport as the East Milton location to be placed on the November ballot. The owner has offered any 15 acres of the 47 acre parcel to the county at no cost. On June 12, the commission next added a third location, the property adjacent to the current courthouse, as a location preference. Voters will now be able to select their location preference of the Byrom/U.S. Hwy. 90 location, the Milton Crossing, LLC/Pea Ridge location or the downtown Milton location, in addition to if they support a local option sales tax to fund a new courthouse on the November general election ballot.

    What about the cost of transferring prisoners from the jail?

A misconception is that prisoners make up the largest group of users of the courthouse. This is not true - 97 percent of those using the courthouse are average citizens. Name changes, paying traffic tickets, filing for divorce, probate, foreclosures and jury selection all take place at the courthouse.

Only three percent of current Santa Rosa Courthouse traffic are inmates accompanied by sheriff staff. With today's technology, prisoners participate in video first appearances and first arraignments. Most of the transports to the courthouse from the jail are for docket day. In the future, docket days may also be conducted via video. This means the only time defendants will be transported from the jail to the courthouse is for jury selection and trials, and many of those defendants would have been bonded out and traveling from their home, not coming to court from the jail.

The intersection of U.S. Hwy. 90 and Avalon was found to be the "travel center" of the county, meaning it is the most equal point for all areas of the county. The judicial center needs to be built in a location that is the most central for all residents of the county, today and in the future.

    Has the county already selected a site?

After eight months of discussion (Click here for timeline), the commission selected 22.56 acres (click here for map) on U.S. Hwy. 90 just west of the Milton Campus of Pensacola State College for a proposed site for the new judicial facility. In meetings the property is referred to by the realtor Coldwell Banker and the property owner, Charter Bank. The commission selected this site because it is located in the identified target travel time radius, is of compatible use with the current surrounding properties, offers the needed roadway traffic capacity, and allows space for future growth. The property is estimated to cost $1.4 million. The purchase of the land will be contingent on public support of the location and a local option sales tax to fund the construction of the facility.

At the March 13 commission meeting, the commission addressed concerns that the new judicial facility was not to be located on property that the county already owned. The board agreed to add a location preference option to the proposed judicial center ballot. In addition to selecting if they support a local option sales tax to fund a new judicial center, voters will have the option of voicing their preference for the U.S. Hwy. 90 property or property already owned in by the county in East Milton. The contractor will now look at county owned property to select the most appropriate 22 acres and develop a second design plan and cost estimates.

At the March 24 meeting, staff presented similar sized county owned property in East Milton to the board ( click here for maps). The commission directed staff to bring research on available utilities to those properties, impacts of moving the sheriff's shooting range, impact of the future Hwy. 87 bypass, and offers of donated or reduced cost land in East Milton to the April 7, 10 and 21 meetings. At the At the May 27 Judicial Workshop, commissioners voted to select the property owned by William H. Byrom located on U.S. Hwy. 90 southwest of the Peter Prince Airport as the East Milton location to be placed on the November ballot. The owner has offered any 15 acres of the 47 acre parcel to the county at no cost. Voters will be able to voice their location preference of either the Byrom property of the previously selected Milton Crossing, LLC property on U.S. Hwy. 90 in Pea Ridge in addition to if they support a local option sales tax to fund a new courthouse. On June 12, the commission next added a third location, the property adjacent to the current courthouse, as a location preference. Voters will now be able to select their location preference of the Byrom/U.S. Hwy. 90 location, the Milton Crossing, LLC/Pea Ridge location or the downtown Milton location, in addition to if they support a local option sales tax to fund a new courthouse on the November general election ballot.

    Isn't traffic too heavy on U.S. Hwy. 90 and Avalon Boulevard to place a judicial center there?

Every year the Florida Department of Transportation gathers traffic counts for state roadway facilities across the State of Florida. The traffic counts are collected across the state at counter stations for identified roadway segments. The traffic counts are released the following year around April or May. Traffic counts can be viewed online at www2.dot.state.fl.us/FloridaTrafficOnline/viewer.html.

U.S. Hwy. 90 and Avalon Boulevard are classified on the state roadway network. On Avalon Boulevard the 2012 average annual daily traffic, or AADT, for the existing two lane facility was 16,767. The maximum AADT for Avalon Blvd once the road way is four laned will be 36,700. At the proposed judicial center selected segment of U.S. Hwy. 90, the 2012 AADT volume was 31,000. The maximum level of service is 39,800.

    How much will a new judicial center cost?

At the Aug. 11 meeting, HOK presented site plans and cost estimates for the three possible judicial center locations, which included floor plans and building images (click here for presentation). The cost of each location is as follows:

Milton Crossings, LLC/Pea Ridge location - $50,700,000
East Milton, Byrom/U.S. Hwy 90 location - $49,700,000
Downtown Milton location - $50,180,000

    Does the commission understand that public does not want an overelaborate facility?

Yes, the commission has expressed on numerous occasions they support a functional judicial center, one that will support current and long term needs of Santa Rosa County, not an ornate facility.

    How big of a judicial facility do we need?

The current courthouse including the modular addition is just under 60,000 square feet and has six courtrooms. According to a needs assessment conducted in 2012, a new judicial facility would require approximately 146,000 square feet to meet current and future needs. The facility space identified includes:

  • Nine courtrooms, all with direct prisoner access
  • Chambers and office space for court administration, including guardian ad litem & family law staff
  • Jury assembly, holding/security and public law library areas
  • Clerk of court office space including probation, nine divisions
  • State attorney
  • Public defender
  • Lobby and engineering support spaces
In the March 2014 updated assessment, the facility space was more specifically identified at 156,699 square feet. HOK also brought forward a request to add additional space for the clerk of court administration, archives and probation intake, increasing the estimated needed space to 180,767 square feet. However, the commission confirmed that certain functions of the clerk of court, including administration, archives and probation intake, need not be located in the judicial facility and directed the contractor to proceed with the 156,699 square feet design.

    Doesn't the courthouse have to be located in the county seat?

Statues permit a location outside the city limits of Milton, the county seat. The commission would have to adopt a resolution in the county in order to locate the judicial center outside the city limits. Before the resolution is adopted, two public hearings must advertised and held.

    How would it be paid for?

At the Aug. 14 commission meeting, commissioners voted to place a one percent local options sales tax on the November general ballot. If approved by voters, the sales tax would be in place for five years beginning Jan. 1, 2015 (Click here for more on local options taxes). If approved by residents, a local option sales tax would add one percent to items purchased in Santa Rosa County. The revenue for a one cent tax rate for Santa Rosa County is estimated at $12 million. The commission has stressed throughout the process that they would only take a local option sales tax to the people if it had a specified sunset date and included no other projects.

If approved by voters, Santa Rosa shoppers would begin paying the extra percent in sales tax on January 1, 2015. It would not impact items currently exempt from sales tax like food, medicine, mortgage payments, car payments and large ticket items over $5,000. The tax would apply to anyone shopping in the county, including visitors.

The option on the ballot will read as follows:

SALES TAX FOR COURTHOUSE
"Shall a one-cent sales tax be levied to fund the construction of a new Courthouse at a location to be determined by referendum? The tax will be levied for a period of five (5) years."
____ FOR THE ONE-CENT SALES TAX
____ AGAINST THE ONE-CENT SALES TAX

It is important to note that if you shop in Escambia you are paying a 1.5 percent in local option sales tax, one percent to support capital projects like paving roads, drainage systems, libraries and parks and 1/2 percent for the school district.

    When would the local option sales tax be on the ballot?

The commission voted on May 27 to place the referendum on the November 4 general election ballot.(click here for more election information). At the Aug. 14 commission regular meeting, commissioners voted to place a one percent local option sales tax on the November general election ballot. If approved by voters in, the tax would begin Jan. 1, 2015 and would sunset after five years.

The item will appear on the ballot as:
SALES TAX FOR COURTHOUSE "Shall a one-cent sales tax be levied to fund the construction of a new Courthouse at a location to be determined by referendum? The tax will be levied for a period of five (5) years."
____ FOR THE ONE-CENT SALES TAX
____ AGAINST THE ONE-CENT SALES TAX

    Can a judicial center local option sales tax pay for other projects?

No, the tax could only pay for the judicial center. Florida law protects the funds raised by requiring a spending plan to be approved at the same time the tax is approved by voters. In addition, all sales tax revenue must be kept separate from other county funds. Elected officials are held accountable for spending the revenues as advertised on the ballot.

    Why don't we ask the state or federal government to pay for a new judicial center?

Counties are required by section 14, article V of the Florida Constitution to fund the cost of communications services, existing radio systems, existing multiagency criminal justice information systems, and the cost of construction or lease, maintenance, utilities, and security of facilities for the circuit and county courts, public defenders' offices, state attorneys' offices, and the offices of the clerks of the circuit and county courts performing court-related functions.

    What happens if the sales tax is not approved?

The county and citizens would be forced to work longer with a declining facility. The county would have to keep funding "band aids" that don't solve the root of the problem.

    How can I learn more about progress in the judicial center planning process?

  • Watch commission meetings - The commission meets in regular session to vote on agenda items beginning at 9 a.m. on the second and fourth Thursday of each month. Discussion of agenda items takes place during Committee meetings on the Monday prior to the second and fourth Thursday of each month. Both meetings are held in the commissioners' board room in the administrative center located at 6495 Caroline Street. Meetings can also be viewed on the Web live at www.santarosa.fl.gov/bocc/meetings.cfm, or by watching the meeting in its entirety posted the afternoon of the meeting at the same link.
  • Sign up to receive judicial center related meeting dates and attend public meetings when scheduled.
  • Visit this site often for updated.
  • Monitor your local media outlets.
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    How can I provide input to my commission?

General Local Option Sales Tax Information

    What is a local option sales tax?
A local option sales tax is a state authorized sales tax on retail purchases used by counties to raise money for certain projects. Experts often consider a local option sales tax as the most equitable tax because everyone pitches in, not just the homeowners as with a property tax. Voters can choose whether to approve or to extend a local option sales tax via a referendum on an election ballot.

Funds generated by a local sales tax can only be used for capital projects like paving roads, improving drainage systems, public safety services, and building public facilities like libraries, parks, and court systems that have a life of five years or more. They can be used for new projects or to fix existing problems.

Counties are able to levy local option sales taxes on top of the state sales tax amount of six percent, and most do - 56 of the 67 Florida counties have a local sales tax in 2014. The highest amount of sales tax is 1.5 percent by nine counties. Click here for a complete list of the additional sales tax rates by county.

Some counties have a one percent local option sales tax, which is one cent per each one dollar spent, and is therefore sometimes called a "one cent sales tax." At the Aug. 14 commission regular meeting, commissioners voted for a one percent local option sales tax to be in place for five years starting Jan. 1, 2015, if approved by voters in November.

    How much are sales taxes in Santa Rosa County?
The state charges a six percent tax rate on the sale or rental of goods, with some exceptions such as groceries and medicine. Sales tax in Santa Rosa County is currently 6.5 percent. This includes the six percent state sales tax and Santa Rosa a 1/2 percent local option sales tax that is paid to the Santa Rosa County School District for school facilities. It was first approved by voters in 1997 and again in 2007.

If approved by voters in November, the additional one percent local option sales taxes will raise sales tax in Santa Rosa County to 7.5 percent for five years.

    Can a judicial center local option sales tax pay for any other projects?
No, if voters approve the local option sales tax to fund a new judicial facility, the tax could only pay for the judicial center. Florida law protects the funds raised by requiring a spending plan to be approved at the same time the tax is approved by voters. In addition, all sales tax revenue must be kept separate from other county funds. Elected officials are held accountable for spending the revenues as advertised on the ballot.

    Who will pay the additional sales tax?
Anyone purchasing goods in Santa Rosa County will help fund the judicial center. People from other places who visit, work or purchase goods and services in our county will help to contribute through the tax.

    What purchases are taxed?
Items that are currently taxed when you shop would incur the local option sales tax if approved by voters. Things currently exempt from sales tax like food, medicine, mortgage payments, car payments and large ticket items over $5,000 would not be included. The tax would apply to anyone shopping in the county, including visitors.

    Will this increase the amount of sales tax I have to pay on large ticket
        items such as an automobile?
No, this will have no impact on any item that is currently covered by the maximum sales tax cap of $5,000.

    Will this change the way any other exempt sales items are taxed?
No, if the item is currently exempt from sales tax, it will continue to be exempt.

    What is the collection and remittance process for the local option sales tax?
If approved by voters, the local option sales tax will be collected by businesses in Santa Rosa County and then submitted to the State of Florida. The State of Florida distributes the local option sales tax to Santa Rosa County. This process occurs monthly, with a two month lag between actual collections and receipt by the county. At the Aug. 14 commission regular meeting, commissioners voted for a one percent local option sales tax to be in place for five years starting Jan. 1, 2015, if approved by voters in November.

    How will the referendum appear on the November ballot?
At the Aug. 14 commission meeting, the board approved the following ballot language for the November general election:

SALES TAX FOR COURTHOUSE
"Shall a one-cent sales tax be levied to fund the construction of a new Courthouse at a location to be determined by referendum? The tax will be levied for a period of five (5) years."

____ FOR THE ONE-CENT SALES TAX
____ AGAINST THE ONE-CENT SALES TAX


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