"No" vote Tuesday slashes $500,000 from County Engineer's budget - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

"No" vote Tuesday slashes $500,000 from County Engineer's budget

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CHARLES CITY (KWWL) -- An Eastern Iowa county road budget is taking a big hit, after voters say "no" to a public measure Tuesday. Rural Floyd County residents turned down a 1% sales tax in unincorporated areas of the county beginning January 2013.

Now county officials are concerned voters failed to realize the measure is new, but the tax is not. What the question did not mention, is this tax has been in place since 2004, and it makes up a more than 10% of the County Engineer's budget.

"I could not believe it didn't pass," said Floyd County Engineer Dusten Rolando.

Rolando has grown accustomed to cutting his budget. But he was blown away to learn taxpayers had, essentially, voted to slash it by more than a tenth.

"I can't even fathom right now, because I've been so worked up about it not going... I just think it was a misconception," he said.

The Local Option Sales Tax has consistently provided around $500,000 dollars to help maintain more than 700 miles of secondary roads.

This includes laying new road rock, bridge repairs, and plowing snow.

"We have to look at, where do we cut services? And it's already at a bare minimum now, the hardest part is, where are we going to absorb that?" Rolando asked.

So did people realize they were voting to, basically, continue a tax they are already paying, for services they depend on? The County Auditor says, probably not.

"I think we're just in the mode of saying "no" to anything that has tax on it," Gloria Carr said.

But she noted, you shouldn't blame the way it was worded.

"It would have probably cleared some confusion if we would have used the "continue." But when it has a sunset, it does end. And so, the tax starting in January 2013 would be a new tax," Carr explained.

"People, maybe just didn't understand," Rolando added.

Rolando is hoping, once voters realize what they did, they'll fight for a chance to take back their "no". It's up to the Board of Supervisors to decide if they want to bring this issue to voters again. It will have to be done in a special election.

"That cost is probably insignificant compared to the potential risk for not having a LOST," said Carr.

Some rural businesses have already offered to help get the word out for a "yes" vote. Carr admitted, the county could have done a better job marketing the ballot issue. They did distribute information in local papers, but she says, it was obviously not enough to educate people on its impact. For example, the sales tax has helped prevent rural property taxes in Floyd County from increasing.

Online Reporter Colleen O'Shaughnessy

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