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Manatee County Voters Approve Conservation Tax Referendum

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Dennis Stroud
Environmentalists say Robinson Preserve in Bradenton is an example of an important conservation area in Manatee County.

Manatee County is one of the fastest growing counties in Florida. On Tuesday, residents said yes to a slight increase on their property tax bill to create a dedicated fund for land preservation.

Manatee County voters overwhelmingly passed a measure Tuesday aimed at environmental protection.

With the approval of the “Water Quality, Fish and Wildlife Habitat Preservation and Parks” funding referendum, the county may now issue general obligation bonds of up to $50,000,000. To do that- voters had to say yes to a small property tax increase. The impact on the average homeowner is estimated to be about $29 a year.

The measure passed by more than 71 percent.

Christine Johnson, president of the Conservation Foundation of the Gulf Coast, says that's proof that protecting nature is a nonpartisan issue.

"We all want clean water, places to get outside, and to be surrounded by natural beauty,” she said. “It's just wonderful that during this divisive time we can come together to conserve Manatee County."

Right now, just 13% of Manatee County’s land is preserved, compared to a 30% average statewide.

Johnson says the successful passage of the referendum will improve the quality of life in Manatee County.

"It means more of what makes this county beautiful will be conserved,” she said. "It means more places for kids and families to get outside and enjoy nature and it means our waters will be drinkable, fishable and swimmable."

Pinellas and Sarasota, Manatee’s neighboring counties to the north and south, already have implemented taxes targeted for conservation.

As a reporter, my goal is to tell a story that moves you in some way. To me, the best way to do that begins with listening. Talking to people about their lives and the issues they care about is my favorite part of the job.
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