Charter County Draft


Why become a charter county?

Monroe County faces a daunting challenge in the coming years to prepare its infrastructure to become resilient to withstand the tremendous effects of climate change better. Science predicts more than a foot of sea-level rise by 2045 and an additional two feet by 2060. Engineers used this scientific evidence to model a road adaptation program to specify the roads that need to be elevated or adapted to withstand the rising waters and allow continued access to homes and businesses. Without program implementation, access to homes and businesses will dwindle over the years as widespread tidal flooding continues. Other planning efforts include floodproofing and elevating existing infrastructure, planning for the resilience of the County’s parks, and preparing for ever-increasing traffic and aging infrastructure, among other resilience needs.  

The County identified a source of funding - the Charter County and Regional Transportation System Sales Surtax – available to counties that have adopted a home rule charter to help address these problems by shifting that burden to tourists. Experience shows that tourists pay about 65% of all sales tax in Monroe County. Since state law already authorizes this tax, local voters can approve it if they vote to approve a County Charter at one referendum and then vote to approve the tax at a subsequent referendum. The County has tried unsuccessfully to convince the state legislature to allow a local referendum to levy a similar tax for non-charter counties that would fund resilience and roadway projects. 

Charter County Info

  • A charter serves as a "County Constitution" in the same manner that a City Charter serves as that municipality's constitution. 
  • Charters confer powers, duties, or privileges on the County in place of the default provisions for non-charter counties that are conferred by the state constitution. 
  • Charters must be approved, along with any amendments, by the voters of the County.
  • Charter government allows the County Commissioners greater control over some local affairs.
  • Can create a more responsive County government by authorizing:
    • Citizen initiatives to enact laws through binding referenda whereas residents of non-charter counties do not enjoy that power.
    • Voters to recall County Commissioners if they feel they are not responsive to voters, where residents of non-charter counties do not have that power. 
    • Voters to impose term limits on commission seats
    • Voters to increase the number and change the method of electing commissioners (currently 5 commissioners are elected countywide and must live in the district they are representing.)
  • Monroe County has no interest in overseeing the municipalities. The draft charter would preserve municipal independence.
  • The Commissioners stated they want a simple charter that leaves the current structure of County government intact but authorizes them to ask voters to approve the Charter County Transportation Surtax.
  • To date, the 20 charter counties in Florida are home to approximately 75 percent of Florida’s residents.  
  • Two charter counties - Columbia (69,698) and Wakulla (33,764) - have fewer residents than Monroe (82,874), according to the 2020 census.  
  • Charter vs. Non-Charter Comparison (FAC):

The BOCC started the discussion after unsuccessfully trying to convince the State Legislature to create a new type of tax to fund sustainability-related expenses due to rising flood waters and other climate-related effects. Unfortunately, without the support of Tallahassee leadership to authorize that new type of tax, the County did not have the option of asking local voters if they would approve that tax. However, the transportation surtax is available under current law for charter counties for a broad range of transportation and transit-related expenditures. Monroe County voters would have to approve a charter as a non-charter county to take advantage of the transportation surtax. Since the transportation surtax is authorized by current law, local voters could approve that tax without the permission of Tallahassee.

The transportation surtax would function much like the current one-penny infrastructure sales surtax that has been in place for decades. In 2022, County voters approved extending that tax with over 65 percent approval. Experience has shown that roughly 2/3 of sales taxes collected in the Florida Keys is paid by visitors, so the transportation surtax would be expected to shift the majority of the cost of the transportation and transit improvements from local taxpayers to visitors. 


1. Roads (active) ($36 million)
  a. Sands Subdivision: Current cost ‐ $22 million; available grant $8.1 million
  b. Twin Lakes: Current estimate $11 million; grants of $9.4 million
  c. Stillwright Point: Old estimate $22 million; design grant of $1.5 million

2. Roads (in the pipeline) ( $44.5 million + $1.07 billion)
  a. Conch Key: estimate $8 million; Resilient FL grant $4 million (50%)
  b. Winston Waterways: estimated $31 million; Hoping for Resilient Florida $15.5 million
  c. Big Coppitt: estimated $50 million; Hoping for Resilient Florida $25 million
  d. Remaining roads modeled to need work by 2030 estimated at $1.07B

3. Bridges ($68 million)
  a. Sugarloaf: design complete; estimated at $5‐6 million
  b. Similar Sound: estimated at $7‐8 million
  c. Card Sound: estimated at $54 million by 2030

Other Bridge information to consider: Sammy’s Creek Bridge serves 2 houses, Geiger Key Bridge serves 3 houses, and the No Name Key Bridge serves 42 houses with a replacement likely more than $20 million (it is almost the same length as Card Sound Bridge)

Additional Penny Sales Tax Info

  • Can only be used for transportation and roads needs, such as: 
    1. Bridge Repairs and Replacements
    2. Road repairs
    3. Elevating roads and similar roadway adaptation projects, 
    4. Creating a Countywide transit system aimed at reducing traffic on US 1
  • Sales tax keeps ad valorem (property) taxes lower. Monroe currently has one of the lowest ad valorem tax rates in the state due to its reliance on the infrastructure sales surtax.  
  • The transportation surtax would function much like the current one-penny infrastructure sales surtax that has been in place for decades. In 2022, County voters approved extending that tax with over 65 percent approval. 
  • Transportation/Roads operations are funded with gas tax revenue that has steadily declined as vehicles become more fuel-efficient and electric vehicle use increases.