The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa

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July 24, 2013

Tax levy up to voters

CLINTON — Further discussion involving the Local Options Sales Tax (LOST) referendum and Capital Improvements tax levy headlined the Clinton City Council and Committee of the Whole meetings Tuesday.

The council decided to approve a motion to allow the decision to allocate the funds to be made by the public in a vote on Nov. 5.

Also included on the Nov. 5 ballot will be the ability to levy the Capital Improvements tax levy. With the voters approval, it will state the purpose, amount and the duration of the levy.

The council knows how difficult of a sell it will be to voters, but with a $23 million sewer work mandate looming for 2018, the city needs to find a way to pay for the work.

Mayor Mark Vulich made it clear to the council that he would not allow the city to raise any more taxes for residents to pay for the sewer work, but knows the options are becoming slim.

“I think we have a very uphill battle here,” Vulich said. “It’s going to be a hard sell.”

Councilman John Rowland agreed with Vulich but added that the council needed to reach out to the public to see how they felt about the future of the mandated sewer work.

“They want to be involved in making big decisions...well here’s a big decision,” Rowland said.

If the vote is passed, the 50 percent of the current LOST funds associated with sewers, storm sewers and streets will be used to pay back more than $20 million the city will need to borrow for the sewer repairs.

According to City Administrator Jessica Kinser, by taking away that 50 percent “effectively means we have defunded the pavement management program.”

In a letter to Vulich, Kinser referenced the city’s continued priority for street repairs, citing that as a major reason to request the voters to allow all of the LOST funds to be used for sewers, streets and storm sewers.

“If none of those options pan out, we need to have a serious conversation about the franchise fee,” Kinser said.

Although the future lies within the hands of Clinton voters, the council made it clear that further taxation is not an option.

“The public has been taxed to the max,” Rowland said.

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