Area voters will consider a variety of local tax and spending measures when they go to the polls Nov. 6.
Crosby voters will decide whether to increase the current 1 percent sales tax to 3 percent. One percent of the increase would go to the hospital and the other 1 percent would go to the park district to support and expand a wellness and recreation center and reduce the property tax. Each 1 percent of sales tax raises about $300,000, according to the city auditor's office.
Bob Gillen, park district director, said a portion of the additional funding will support his newly created position. The park board decided to hire a full-time staff person after building a new facility for hosting recreation programs and in seeing a need for other improvements in the existing park system.
Gillen said the district's current budget for parks is inadequate to support improvements. The board would like to build a playground to replace play equipment that is out-dated and in some cases no longer deemed safe. The district also needs equipment for its tree division.
Half the sales tax, if approved by voters, would go toward the rink operations of the Northwest Health and Wellness Center and a proposed expansion to accommodate the local gymnastics club and potentially a fitness center.
The other half of the tax would go to the board's general fund to bring the current 35-mill property tax levy down to 10 mills or less.
Gillen said the hope is that voters will support both the park and hospital taxes because both services are important to a small community. The ability to improve the park system with a sales tax will enable the community to host more events that draw people to spend money and pay taxes, he said. It could influence families to choose Crosby when deciding where to locate in the oil patch.
"We need parks and good recreation to help people make that decision. If we don't have that, they are going to go other places," Gillen said.
Les Urvand, hospital administrator in Crosby, agreed passage of both taxes is important. Having the amenity of an expanded wellness and recreation center would help recruit medical professionals, he said.
In Williams County, voters are being asked to approve a half percent sales tax for infrastructure. The tax would run from April 2013 through March 2023.
County Commission Chairman Dan Kalil, in a document explaining the tax to voters, said the new tax would replace a half percent tax no longer being levied for the Williams County Correctional Center. The original tax was to run 20 to 25 years to pay off construction costs, but economic activity caused sales tax revenues to explode, raising the needed dollars in 5-1/2 years.
Tax collections continue to grow in Williams County. Last year, a half percent sales tax generated $9.4 million and from January until the tax was suspended this month, collections totaled $14.5 million.
Township supervisors, emergency services personnel and law enforcement officers from across the county asked the commission to consider using sales tax to help their operations, Kalil wrote. He noted that state funding likely won't be enough to address the county's overwhelmed infrastructure.
"Williams County has always been a community that meets our own needs without looking outside our borders for answers. This one-half cent sales tax is an avenue to provide the funding for county roads and bridges, ambulances, fire trucks and other basic services without adding to the property-tax burden," he said.
Rolette voters are being asked to approve an increase in city sales tax from 1 percent to 1.5 percent.
Rolette Mayor Blaine Scott said the sales tax gives the city flexibility to pay for projects and needs that may come up outside the budget or that can't be obtained without the extra funds. The additional sales tax likely would go to augment the park board's limited funding and support operation of the swimming pool, he said. The half percent would raise from $30,000 to $35,000 a year.
Harvey is seeking voter approval for a 1 percent sales tax for streets and other infrastructure. The current 1 percent tax goes to economic development. Currently, the tax generates about $196,000 a year.
Harvey is proposing the tax to assist with potential future projects such as chipping and sealing more than half the city streets and constructing a north-side truck route.
Burke and Sheridan county voters will be deciding whether to increase their monthly 9-1-1 emergency fees from $1 to $1.50.
Pierce County voters will determine whether to increase the property tax to .75 mills for the county historical society. The present mill is 0.39. The increase is expected to generate about an additional $7,000. Taxpayers would first see the increase on tax statements sent in December 2013.
Rolla residents will consider whether to make infrastructure improvements and increase their water and sewer bills. A 60 percent vote is needed to pass the measures, which by law require voter approval because of the amount of money proposed to be spent.
Rolla's Measure 1 asks voters to approve spending $3.5 million to replace 15 blocks of storm sewer and four blocks of water main and then restore the street pavement. Measure 2 proposes to replace 30 blocks of deteriorated cast iron water main and repave the streets.
Rolla Mayor Scott Mitchell said Measure 1 would address a flooding problem that occurs downtown whenever the town gets a heavy, fast rain. Enlarging the storm sewer would correct the problem. It also makes sense to replace old water mains that run next to the storm sewers at the same time, he said.
The streets in the affected area need repair, and since replacing the underground infrastructure will require tearing up the streets, it is a good time to do new paving, he added.
Rolla has received a $900,000 grant and access to a $2.6 million low-interest loan for the project. Mitchell said additional grant money is possible.
The water main and related improvements in Measure 2 would be paid for through the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Rural Development. The agency will provide a grant to cover 45 percent of the cost. A 40-year, low-interest loan would fund the remainder.
The local share of the two projects would fall on residents' water and sewer bills. Mitchell said the city roughly estimates the extra cost will be $20 a month, but that could change depending on final project costs and what outside funding becomes available.
Mitchell said if the measures don't pass, the city council will proceed with replacing the storm sewer, which it would have authority to do since the cost would fall below the threshold requiring a vote. If the city chooses to replace underground infrastructure, streets may be graveled until money becomes available for repaving, he said.