City Commissioner Mike Amyx is making another proposal to create a sales tax to help pay for city streets.
Amyx on Monday said he wanted commissioners to consider putting up for voter approval a half-cent sales tax that would run for five years. The tax would generate approximately $25 million to $30 million during the five-year period. Amyx is proposing that the money be used to repair the city's street and sidewalk network.
"We need to have a plan if we're really going to make street maintenance a priority," Amyx said. "And I don't think we should place all the burden on property tax owners forever."
Amyx's fellow commissioners expressed some support for the idea, but said they thought the sales tax discussion should wait until after they've completed the 2008 budget process. That process is scheduled to end in early August.
Commissioners, though, said they might want to see some changes to Amyx's plan. Mayor Sue Hack and Commissioner Rob Chestnut said they could prefer a sales tax proposal to fund more than streets. Chestnut said he wanted to look at funding economic development efforts, too.
Commissioner Boog Highberger said he might support a sales tax for streets and sidewalks, but opposed a plan that also sought to raise sales taxes in exchange for a property tax reduction.
"I think that would just make it doubly regressive," said Highberger, who thought renters likely wouldn't see any benefit from a property tax reduction but would feel the pain of an additional sales tax.
Amyx said he was no longer promoting his sales tax proposal as a property tax reduction program. Instead, he said he hoped a new sales tax would make it unnecessary for the commission to further raise property taxes.
Currently the city spends about $5.3 million a year on street maintenance. Amyx said he would like to instead spend all the new sales tax dollars - $5 million to $6 million per year - on street maintenance. He also would use $2 million of the existing street maintenance money on streets. The remaining $3 million of the existing street maintenance budget would be for other city needs.
Amyx said he thought the earliest a sales tax could be implemented would be January 2009. That means city voters would need to approve the sales tax idea in 2008.
Amyx, though, said he would like the City Commission to commit this year to putting the sales tax issue on the ballot. If that doesn't happen, Amyx said he likely would not support the recommended 2008 budget that calls for $5.3 million in street maintenance.
"I want us to improve the streets, but if we are going to catch up we can't do it the way we're doing it now," Amyx said.