While Columbia again received the biggest share of revenue-sharing money from the county’s half-cent sales tax for roads this year, the program is even more important to the county’s smaller towns, Southern District Commissioner Karen Miller said.
The Boone County Commission distributed the money earlier this month, handing out $683,760 of the $2.88 million requested. Columbia received $292,500, or about 43 percent of the total, for a future westward extension of Chapel Hill Road that will cost an estimated $2.5 million.
Although that was the largest amount given, the smaller grants made to nine towns and the Centralia Special Road District will have a more immediate impact.
In Sturgeon, for example, where the population is about 100, officials are eager to use the $25,394 they received to chip and seal streets. Miller said it would have taken Sturgeon almost two years to raise that kind of money.
Hartsburg, population 131, will use its road-tax proceeds to replace a bridge, while Harrisburg, population 108, will pave some streets.
“Our greatest need was to help our rural cities,” Miller said. “It’s a great program to help our smaller communities that don’t have a large tax base.”
While Columbia has more resources than surrounding smaller towns, Mayor Darwin Hindman said it’s only fair that the city receive a healthy slice of the revenue-sharing pie.
“Sixty-five percent of the population of Boone County and more than 80 percent of the money in taxes Boone County collects comes from the city of Columbia,” Hindman said. “The demand for road improvements is most acute in Columbia, so it’s only natural that Columbia would get the highest share.”
The Centralia Special Road District received the next highest amount: $103,333 for a planned renovation of Kroeger Road. The city of Centralia, a separate entity, received $88,333 to fix up Singleton Street.
The county road tax generated $9.92 million last year. Voters first approved a five-year half-cent sales tax for roads in 1993, partly in exchange for a 24-cent rollback of the county’s property tax levy. They authorized a 10-year extension of the road tax in 1997.
As part of their pitch to voters, county officials promised to share some of the tax proceeds with cities and towns, which make an annual proposal and request for money.
“We review each town’s projects on a case-by-case basis, and sometimes we give them what they ask for, and sometimes we have to make modifications,” Northern District Commissioner Skip Elkin said.
Before the road tax, Miller said, the county’s Public Works Department was primarily a maintenance operation with no budget for major road projects.