Citizen group asks Columbia City Council to support county road tax

Monday, October 1, 2007 | 9:30 p.m. CDT; updated 4:15 a.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 22, 2008

COLUMBIA — Representatives of a citizen group asked the Columbia City Council on Monday to support a second extension of the half-cent county road sales tax that will appear on the November ballot.

Boone County Presiding Commissioner Ken Pearson presented council members during a pre-council meeting with a brief overview of what the county has done with the tax. Pearson highlighted improved maintenance efforts and joint road projects between the city and the county.

“It’s an important part of the county’s revenue for roads,” Pearson said.

The county road sales tax, known as Proposition 2, is set to expire in September 2008. County voters originally approved the road tax for five years at the end of 1993, then renewed it for an additional 10 years in 1998.

Pearson said revenue from another 10-year extension would be put toward the increasing costs of maintaining roads rather than toward new projects.

“Revenue has gone up, but not at the same rate as costs,” Pearson said.

Asphalt, for example, used to cost the county $18 per ton in 1998 and now costs $67.

Pearson also explained that the half-cent sales tax coincided with a rollback of the county’s property tax from 29 cents to less than five cents.

Following Pearson’s presentation, Dave Griggs of the Citizens to Renew the Road and Bridge Fund urged council approval for the tax.

“It’s critical this tax passes,” Griggs said.

According to the Boone County Public Works department, Proposition 2 has generated $110 million since 1999. In 2006 alone, it pumped $11.5 million into county coffers.

Griggs told council members that if the road tax doesn’t pass, the property tax will automatically go back to the 29 cent level and may even rise to 34 cents. Even with increased property tax, the county’s revenue for roads and bridges would fall short by $6 million or $7 million, Griggs said.

Council member Chris Janku asked Griggs for clarification, “So, what you’re saying is that the status quo will continue?”

Griggs confirmed that if approved, the sales tax will go unchanged.

At the official council meeting, City Manager Bill Watkins said a resolution for support of the sales tax would appear on an upcoming council agenda.

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