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Half cent sales tax language will be general

By Burk Krohe

Commissioners spent part of their Tuesday meeting vetting a proposed policy resolution to be included with the half-cent sales tax ballot question in August. The language they appeared to favor gave them and their successors flexibility in determining the use for revenues from the tax.

Commissioners added the issue as a discussion item after talks on the matter during last week’s intergovernmental meeting and city goal-setting session.

In September of last year, the city and county agreed to proceed with a new ballot question in August similar to the current “Roads and Jobs” sales tax that was passed in 2002. The city has used its proceeds of the existing tax for economic development projects, while the county has used its portion of the proceeds for infrastructure improvements.

Commissioners Wynn Butler and John Matta have been particularly adamant about extending the uses of those funds beyond economic development. Laura Palmer said the commission will need to adopt an ordinance pledging the general purposes proposed for the proceeds received from the tax.

Palmer said the ordinance would give detail and context to say how proceeds will be used. She noted that for 2013, the language will split the funds 50/50 between traditional economic development and paying for infrastructure, which has been recently completed and bonded, thereby reducing the property taxes required to pay for improvements. But after 2013, broad language will allow for funds to be used at the commission’s discretion each year during the budgeting process.

Butler said he received some feedback from community members who would like to see the pledge for 2013 extended through the life of the tax. He said he was in favor of the language and the flexibility, saying circumstances could change.

Commissioner Rich Jankovich agreed and said it would be probably be a mistake to extend the provision for 2013 for the entire life of the tax.

“I think the longer we handcuff ourselves, the less we have the ability to react to whatever situation we have,” Jankovich said.

Ron Fehr, city manger, said the next steps will be to bring the ordinance to a legislative meeting and communicate to the county that the city wants to move forward with this policy. Fehr said the city will then work with the county to develop an “education plan” for voters, which could essentially be seen as a lobbying effort for the tax.

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