Silt trustees hold off on sales tax increase decision
Post Independent Staff
SILT — About half of the Board of Trustees here on Monday expressed skepticism, if not outright opposition to the idea of raising the sales tax rate paid by residents at local stores and businesses, and the board put off making a decision on the matter until a future meeting.
In the meantime, however, the board authorized Town Clerk Sheila McIntyre to notify the county clerk and recorder that Silt is planning to put a question on the November general elections ballot, which must be done by July 22 in order to meet balloting deadlines.
“I frankly don’t believe this will pass,” said Mayor Dave Moore, referring to a proposed ballot question in November to raise the town’s sales tax rate from 3 percent to 3.75 percent.
The increase of 0.75 cents on the dollar amounts to a 25 percent tax hike, and Moore questioned whether local voters would support it without more detailed information about what the increased revenues are for. As presented at the Monday meeting, the proposed ordinance would “fund the general operations of the town,” meaning they would be deposited in the General Fund.
The idea was first raised at a trustee retreat last January, as Town Administrator Pamela Woods reminded the trustees, but it appeared that Moore, at least, had heard from constituents unhappy about the idea.
“This is a conservative town, and the people don’t like passing extra taxes,” Moore continued, hinting that he had heard that sentiment from constituents prior to the trustees meeting.
Other trustees, including Rick Aluise, Bryan Fleming and Keith Richel, also said at the meeting that they were not sure the time is right to ask residents to raise taxes on themselves.
Aluise said he has examined the town’s financial statements and found that the town already has collected more than double the amount of sales tax revenues collected by this time in 2012, thanks mainly to the addition of the Dollar General store to the local business community.
“We’ve weathered a pretty strong economic downturn,” Aluise remarked, adding that improved sales tax collections should “offset our property taxes [losses] to a huge degree. I think our problem lies in not having enough retail sales, not in having a high enough sales tax rate.”
Trustee Fleming agreed, noting that sales tax revenues are up by 95 percent compared to last year’s receipts.
“Now is the time to capitalize on the fact that we’re the lowest sales tax in the county,” he declared. “Let’s sell that,” as an incentive for businesses to locate in Silt.
Others, however, felt the sales tax hike would not be a great burden on citizens and could help the town with its economic development program or in creation of a recreation department to come up with local recreation programs.
Trustee Paul Taylor said the trustees should put the question, as written, to the voters. He made a motion to do so but it was not approved.
Within moments, Aluise moved to continue the discussion “for further clarification of the ballot language,” particularly with regard to the use of the additional funds, and it was unanimously approved.
The subject will be on the agenda of a work session on July 15.
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