By Brenden West
A resolution urging state leaders to support the road use tax was passed by Clinton County Supervisors early this week.
But county officials aren’t very confident an increase in the tax will go through during this year’s legislative session.
The state of Iowa has gone 25 years without upping what is commonly referred to as the gas tax. It creates revenue used throughout the state to fix and maintain roads. The rate remains at 21 cents per gallon for regular unleaded gasoline, a rate that Clinton Supervisor Brian Schmidt said was among the lowest in the country.
Meanwhile, the county reported that Iowa roads (including Clinton County’s) have deteriorated since the rate was approved in 1989. Various forms of a tax increase have been hotly contested in Des Moines over the last several years, but many, including the Clinton County Board of Supervisors, believe the tax is unlikely to increase because of the 2014 election cycle.
The supervisors, through the resolution, support a 10-cent increase per gallon, which they estimated will create an additional $184 million of revenue for road needs.
“This (resolution) is just to formalize our support the funding needs and the difficulties that we have in funding the maintenance and repair of our secondary roads,” Schmidt said.
Regardless, Schmidt and fellow Supervisor John Staszewski supported increasing the gas tax. The county’s resolution means Clinton County will submit its letter to the Iowa State Association of County Supervisors that says: “there have been several state-wide studies completed over the past 10 years identifying the requirement to significantly increase the amount of funding.”
The resolution further stated that Clinton County has issued $6.4 million in bonds to pay for critical roadway and bridge needs.
“I’m not confident at all that anything will happen,” Schmidt said. “Because it is an election year I’m not confident they’ll address it because it’s perceived as a tax increase.”
While this is by definition an increase, Schmidt added, “There has been a number of entities who support it. It’s a use tax - the more you use the roads, you pay for it by increased gas for running on those roads.”
Clinton County’s resolution also added that “several Iowa counties have had to resort to issuing almost $100 million in bonds” to pay for critical roads needs. Those bonds, stated the resolution, have to be paid through property tax revenues generated by counties.
Supervisor Chairwoman Jill Davisson was not present at the meeting.
On Monday, the Supervisors also...
• Approved 2-0 an increase to business licenses. Before Monday, the licenses could be purchased for $10. County Auditor Eric Van Lancker said that was an outdated fee. The new license cost will be $25.
• Approved 2-0 Phase III of the Clinton County Satellite Offices Plan. Last week, the supervisors held two public hearings regarding the construction of a six-car garage and concrete parking lot on land purchased in DeWitt.
Phases I and II are nearing completion. Regarding the final step, Schmidt said the county only received one public objection to the plans.
• Approved a Clinton County sheriff’s personnel appointment. Eugene Denon will join the county as a part-time bailiff transporter. He will be paid $15 per hour. County Sheriff Rick Lincoln said another hire for his department will be coming in February.