Danedri Thompson
[email protected]
Miami County voters will consider renewing a quarter cent sales tax on the November ballot. The sales tax sunsets at the end of this year, but Miami County Commissioners are asking that residents agree to continue with the tax to fund five bridge rehabilitation projects over the next five years.
According to Penny Evans, Miami County engineer, the sales tax helps keep property taxes down.
“It reduces the amount of property taxes needed to complete these projects,” Evans told Spring Hill City Council members at a council meeting on June 10.
The county started collecting a quarter cent for road projects in 2000, and funds have been used for a variety of projects in Miami County since the taxes’ inception.
Evans said projects funded with the sales tax between 2001 and 2005 include 223rd underpass project near Spring Hill. Drivers should be able to use the new underpass by Sept. 10, but Evans said the underpass could be open as early as July 31.
In the past, she said, the tax has helped the county capture more than $7.3 million in federal and state matching funds including $3.9 million for the 223rd underpass.
If the tax is renewed for five more years, Evans said it will fund five bridge replacements, two bridge deck rehab projects, 7.5 miles of new paving and three intersection safety projects.
“The way a quarter cent sales tax works, you can’t spend it until you earn it,” Evans explained.
County officials project that due to current economic conditions, less revenue will be collected than in previous years. That’s one reason county officials are focusing on bridges and rehabilitation work on existing infrastructure. Evans explained that’s less expensive than new projects.
“Roads are expensive and costs are easier to maintain with these projects,” Evan said.
Bridge repairs are less expensive in part because they require no property easement or utility easement purchases.
The earlier sales tax proposals in 2001 and 2006 produced $5 million in revenue over the course of five years. However, county officials are projecting the quarter cent sales tax will earn less over the next five years.
Because of falling revenues and tough financial times, the proposed funding has been reduced to 80 percent of the previous five year programs, Evans explained.
County officials project revenues for quarter cent sales tax would be $4.3 million over the next five years.
The Pottawatomie Creek Bridge at Osawatomie will be Evan’s first order of business should the sales tax pass. The rainbow arch bridge is listed on the National Historic Register.
“We have to preserve this,” Evans said. “We can’t tear it down.”
The arches – the part of the bridge that put it on the historic registry – are in good shape. It’s the bridge itself that could use work, Evans said.
“We’re watching this bridge very closely,” she told council members. “I’ve already created a set of emergency repair plans, It’s on a higher frequency of inspections than a normal bridge.”
Ron Stiles, Miami County Commissioner representing Spring Hill, told council members the sales tax initiative is important. He told council members he is a little concerned that voters won’t be interested in the projects however.
“Infrastructure can be kind of boring,” Stiles said.
The quarter cent sales tax renewal will appear on the Aug. 3 ballot of Miami County residents.