Local sales tax could mean big bucks for small towns - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Local sales tax could mean big bucks for small towns

by Bryan Goettel

SOLON (KWWL) - A local sales tax could pay for flood recovery under a bill now headed to Governor Chet Culver. The state legislature approved the plan Thursday.

It would allow counties and cities in last year's presidential disaster-declaration to put a sales tax on a ballot as early as March.

Johnson County is the only county in the state that doesn't have any city using a local option sales tax.

But that could soon change thanks to the bill passed by the house on Thursday.

Not only would the extra one percent help cites hit by the flood, it could also do wonders for smaller towns battling tight budgets.

Scott Kleppe has been manning the Solon streets for more than a decade.

He's watched many roads simply fall apart.

"Stinocher Street is just one of our problem streets," said Kleppe, Solon's Director of Public Works. "Something we have to maintain every year yet we don't have funds that we need."

That's why Kleppe beleives passing a local option sales tax could help pave the way for better streets.

"The extra income coming into our street side would help pay for some of the larger projects that we've been putting off in town," said Kleppe.

"Anytime we hear the word tax that's not a good thing, but here with a cost share, so to speak, it could be a real benefit to a community like Solon," said Solon Mayor Rick Jedlicka.

Mayor Rick Jedlicka has heard estimates that the tax could bring in as much as 170 thousand extra dollars to Solon.

"When we're working with a total budget somewhere in the neighborhood of $4 million, $170,000 is a nice chunk of money for us to take on," said Jedlicka.

But not everyone is on board.

"We're being taxed a lot," said Clayton Patterson, who opposes the tax. "Rather than the board, Johnson County and Linn County both, why don't they tighten their belts a little bit."

As for Kleppe, he can't help but think what the tax could do for something like the paving project at the nature center.

"That one percent local option sales tax would help fund the remainder of getting this project completed," said Kleppe.

The local option tax will go to a vote in front of the Iowa City Council on February 9th. And council member Mike O'donnell fully expects the tax to be on ballots for cities across Johnson County come May 5th.

If it passes, Linn County expects the tax to last no more than five years. Johnson County expects to implement a similar "sunset date" as part of its proposal.

Online Reporter: Bryan Goettel

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