COUNTY MAY PLACE A QUESTION ON NOVEMBER BALLOT
Will a roads tax question be on the November ballot in Platte County, and if so will it be at the current 3/8th cent rate or will it be a lower proposal?
The Platte County Commission met with members of the Platte County Economic Development Council on Monday at the Platte County Resource Center.
For the last 20 years, Platte County has had a 3/8 cent special sales tax dedicated to improving roads and bridges.
“We live in a great community, and we need to keep up with growth,” said Joe Vanover, county commissioner, after the meeting.
The Platte County Economic Development Council has led the effort to collect information on planned road and bridge work from cities and road districts.
EDC member Aaron Schmidt told the commission, “We went out to the majority of the cities and asked: what are your road needs? We came up with ranking criteria: safety, economic development, traffic volumes, ability to leverage funds, and the condition of the roadway.”
The EDC provided the commission with a list of the road and bridge needs. The list of needs totaled nearly $250 million.
Schmidt said the EDC members who worked up the information would like to see the tax remain at 3/8th cent and for the distribution of tax funds to follow the same formula as the current tax. Roughly 70 percent of revenues would be spent in cities and roughly 30 percent would be distributed to entities serving unincorporated areas.
The population of the county shows about 73% of residents live in incorporated cities, and 27% live in unincorporated Platte County, officials said.
County commissioners may not be willing to commit to placing the present 3/8 cent amount on the ballot. There appears to be some feeling among the commission toward cutting the amount of the sales tax. One commissioner openly said as much in a press release put out by the commission this week.
Dagmar Wood, first district commissioner, commented, “The county’s roads tax has provided matching funds to address safety and capacity improvements for almost 20 years. Although we are still working on the numbers, I am hopeful that we will be able to reduce the 3/8 cent sales tax for the Nov. 8 ballot, while still keeping up the same levels of service and funding to the cities.”
Twice the voters have approved a 3/8th cent roads sales tax for 10-year periods.
Vanover asked the EDC to explain whether a shorter period would work, suggesting perhaps a five-year sunset.
D.J. Gehrt, city administrator for Platte City, said, “Roads projects are like turning an aircraft carrier, not a speedboat. Roads projects by their nature have extremely long lead times.”
Duane Soper, a former county commissioner and former member of the board at the Platte City Special Road District, said during Monday’s meeting that with just a five year sunset the tax would become “more of a maintenance tax than a tax for capital improvement projects.”
Schmidt provided a proposal for the next 10 years.
“You come up with a plan and things change. This can be used as a guide,” Schmidt said.
He added, “Investing in infrastructure has gotten us to the top growing county in Missouri.”
Ron Schieber, presiding county commissioner, said during Monday’s meeting that county commissioners will meet again on Wednesday, July 20 to discuss the possible roads sales tax renewal.
During Monday’s meeting Schieber said he’d like to see something on the November ballot, but didn’t mention an amount of the tax. Asked for a timeline, Schieber responded by saying within a couple of weeks the county commission should know where it’s at “with our analysis.”
Gordon Cook, an accountant hired by the county commission, will present his analysis of the financial impact on the county government budget to the commissioners later this week. Schieber said the commission “will fold in our information with the EDC information” because it’s important to get the two “as close as possible.”
Ballot certification needs to be done by Aug. 30 to get a proposal on the November ballot, according to the Platte County Board of Elections.
The decision of any ballot proposal lies with the three-member county commission.
“The county commission has discussed the roads sales tax during almost every work session for months,” Vanover said. “I feel like we are near the point where we can make a decision.”
The existing 3/8th cent countywide