Voters in Platte County will decide Tuesday whether to renew a three-eighths cent sales tax for roads and bridges for another 10 years.
Supporters of the measure say the tax has enabled the county and participating municipalities to complete more than 50 repairs or replacements of major roads and bridges. Renewing the tax would ensure other projects in the works will be completed, they say.
“I believe we made promises and those promises were kept,” said former Presiding Commissioner Betty Knight, who served on the commission when the measure was initially approved in 2003. “I hope that people see the value that a three-eighths sales tax has done for roads in the county.”
Opponents say renewal would amount to an unneeded tax increase.
The sales tax is set to expire in September. The renewal needs a simple majority to pass.
A second question on the ballot asks voters to decide whether to approve $20 million in bonds for transportation and infrastructure related projects such as roads, bridges, drainage and sidewalks. Proceeds from the sales tax would pay for the bonds.
During the past decade, the sales tax that is up for renewal has generated more than $51 million.
Some of those projects were widening Barry Road near Interstate 29, improving North Congress Avenue, street reconstruction in downtown Platte City, Northwood Road improvements and replacing or repairing 22 bridges throughout the county.
Knight said improvements to Barry Road spurred economic development to Zona Rosa and nearby retail areas.
Before the measure was approved there was a significant discrepancy in how much money was available for different road districts. Funds generated from the sales tax is split equally between the county and municipalities, Knight said.
The sales tax has enabled the county and municipalities to secure matching federal, state and local funding for various road projects and improvements.
If the measure is renewed, the sales tax is expected to generate about $60 million. Supporters said renewal would provide money to replace 15 bridges and four major road projects and much-needed work to Missouri 45.
Supporters of renewal say the county’s tight budget would not allow the repairs to be done from general operating budget. There are 225 miles of roads in the unincorporated portion of the county, and renewing the sales tax would allow the county’s roads and bridges to keep pace with population growth, they said.
For some municipalities, the sales tax has been the sole funding of road maintenance and improvements, Knight said.
However, some residents oppose renewing the tax.
Resident Jackie Cox said because the sales tax sunsets in September, renewing it would be the same as increasing taxes. Residents pay for road improvements through property taxes, road districts, state fuel taxes and other funding sources, Cox said.
“I am in favor of low taxes and limited government,” she said. “I think we have a lot of ways that we are paying for roads and bridges.”