On April 8, Marion County voters will be asked to decide the fate of a one-fourth of 1 percent sales tax proposal.
On April 8, Marion County voters will be asked to decide the fate of a one-fourth of 1 percent sales tax proposal. On Monday, the County Commission voted unanimously to place on the ballot Proposition R, the revenue from which would go for the upkeep of county roads.
Lyndon Bode, presiding commissioner, reports receiving a good deal of feedback from county residents in recent weeks.
“The vast majority were in favor,” he said. “There were a few in the middle, not sure what to think yet. Some were opposed to it, too, which we understand since this would be a new sales tax.”
According to Bode, passage of Prop R would mean that for every $4 of taxable purchases, one cent more would be paid for county road improvements. Bode estimates the tax would generate “roughly $900,000 a year.” Currently the county budget designates $200,000 on “road rock.”
Passage of the sales tax would mean a transition from river rock gravel to white rock gravel on 390 miles of county roads.
“One call I get the most is asking us to do something about the river gravel because of the flat tires,” said Bode. “No matter how we screen the river rock you’re still going to have more of a chance to get a flat tire. Going to white rock won’t solve the problem completely, but it will provide a smoother road.”
In addition to the gravel switch, the additional sales tax revenue would allow 70 miles of county blacktop roads to be placed on a resurfacing schedule. Funds would also be used for various road improvements such as the replacement of various old, narrow, high-winged concrete culverts with new regular culverts which are passable by two cars.
These improvements have been on the Commission’s “to do” list for some time.
“It’s something that’s been coming over the years and we’re finally at that time,” said Bode, noting that the cost and level of difficulty in securing the permit necessary to take gravel from a river only continue to rise. “We held off until we had to go to the voters because it is a new sales tax. We’ve tried to keep it as low as possible. The quarter cent we believe will cover what we need.”
While the benefits of the new sales tax will primarily be seen in rural areas of the county, Bode does not foresee that being an issue that divides voters.
“I think people, no matter where you are in the county will benefit from it, some more directly than others,” he said. “It would be an improvement for the country, which is why people would support it. It’s improving the county in general, whether you’re in town or out of town.
“I think it’s a more fair tax, a sales tax than a property tax just by virtue of tourists and other people coming in will be helping to cover our costs for improving our roads here in the county.”
Public hearings will be scheduled to answer questions that voters might have, according to Bode. Providing information will only make clear the need for the additional revenue.
“This sales tax will depend if people see the need for it and there’s definitely a need for it. It’s going to be put to good use,” said the commissioner. “It will be money that’s raised here locally and spent locally. You’re going to see a direct benefit.”