County board members are taking it to the streets as they work to convince voters to approve a quarter-cent increase in the sales tax. The money generated would pay for road repairs. The referendum will appear on the April 7 ballot.
“In the year 2000, we received $520,000 from the state for motor fuel tax money,” said County Board Chair Scott Schwerer. “In 2014 it had dropped down to $393,000. That’s a big decrease over those 14 years.”
Schwerer also said the cost of materials for maintaining and fixing roads has increased during that time, putting further pressure on the county to generate additional revenue.
Schwerer said the county board feels the sales tax is the fairest measure to impose.
Clarke Kelso, Chair of the County Board’s Road and Bridge Committee, said the tax would generate an estimated $600,000 per year. And he said the county’s roads are sorely in need of repair.
“I would say at least 25% to 40% of them (roads) are in need of major repairs, and in order to make those last they need to be seal coated after that every three or four years,” said Kelso.
“I think we’ve been kicking the can down the road for quite a while. We’ve been getting by. We’ve probably been seal coating roads we shouldn’t have been because they probably needed more work than that but the money wasn’t there. And (now) we just can’t keep up with the maintenance anymore with the dollars that are available.”
The county maintains 180 miles of roads.
Kelso said if the referendum is approved, consumers would pay an additional 25-cents in sales tax for every $100 spent on retail goods.
“To me, that’s a miniscule price for us to have to pay to be able to get these roads fixed up,” Kelso said.
The sales tax increase will not be applied to:
- Sales of food for human consumption that is to be consumed off premises off the premises of where it’s sold (for example, grocery stores);
- Prescription and non-prescription medicines;
- Medical appliances and insulin, needles, and syringes used by diabetics;
- Farm implements, automobiles, and all licensed vehicles.
County board members are talking as many groups as possible to spread their message. And a public informational meeting will be held Tuesday, March 10, at the Macomb Armory. It begins at 7:00 p.m. and will be hosted by a group that formed to promote passage of the referendum.