Future of proposed sales tax for road funding in question

City officials are asking voters to approve Proposition 1 on the ballot in November. The ballot initiative proposes a 0.25 percent increase in sales tax - 1 cent out of every $4 - would go to transportation infrastructure and public transit funding, St. George, May 24, 2016 | Photo by Mori Kessler, St. George News

ST. GEORGE – A proposed quarter-percent sales tax that would fund transportation infrastructure needs in Washington County appears to be on the losing end of the vote, according to Tuesday’s preliminary election returns. However, that could change.

Main Street, downtown St. George. Proposition 1, a ballot initiate that proposes a quarter-cent sales tax increase, would provide additional funding toward local road infrastructure and public transit in Washington County and its municipalities. Civic officials are in favor of the measure, while some residents do not wish to see a new tax of any sort pass, St. George, Utah, March 5, 2016 | Photo by Mori Kessler, St. George News
Main Street, downtown St. George, Utah, March 5, 2016 | Photo by Mori Kessler, St. George News

Called Proposition 1, or “Prop 1,” the referendum currently stands to fail with 52 percent of voters shooting down the measure while 47 percent voting in support of it. That breaks down to 24,569 votes against the tax increase and 22,464 votes for it.

The unofficial tally includes early voting results and votes made during Election Day. It does not include mail-in and provisional ballots yet to be counted, nor the paper ballots voters had to fill out during the voting machine glitch that occurred Tuesday morning.

The county will release the official canvass results of the general election by Nov. 22.

Proposition 1 would increase the local sales tax by 0.25 percent – or 1 cent out of every $4 – and have that go toward the funding of transportation infrastructure, as well as public transit. The tax would not apply to food items or medication. It is anticipated that between 30 to 40 percent of the tax would be paid by tourists visiting or passing through the county.

Proposition 1, a ballot initiate that proposes a quarter-cent sales tax increase, would provide additional funding toward local road infrastructure and public transit in Washington County and its municipalities. Civic officials are in favor of the measure, while some residents do not wish to see a new tax of any sort pass, St. George, Utah, April 2016 | Photo by Mori Kessler, St. George News
Night time road work being done on 100 South, St. George, Utah, April 2016 | Photo by Mori Kessler, St. George News

Prior to Election Day, St. George Mayor Jon Pike said he believed the vote would be close, yet was hopeful it would ultimately pass.

If the measure fails to pass, Pike said the voters will have given the city its “marching orders.” That is to say: work with what you have. As such, certain projects will just take longer to get to, or not happen at all, he said.

Pike reiterated that sentiment over Facebook Tuesday night. “We will continue to do the best we can with the resources we have,” the mayor said.

According to data from the Utah League of Cities and Towns, the 0.25 percent sales tax is estimated to generate annual revenue to St. George of $1.4 million for transportation infrastructure and $1.6 million for the SunTran public transit service. Washington County would receive around $800,000.

Riders disembark some SunTrans buses at the stop near the corner of 100 South and 1000 East, St. George, Utah, Nov. 24, 2015 | Photo by Mori Kessler, St. George News
Riders disembark some SunTrans buses at the stop near the corner of 100 South and 1000 East, St. George, Utah, Nov. 24, 2015 | Photo by Mori Kessler, St. George News

SunTran’s annual budget is currently $1.7 million. Passage of Prop 1 would double that and allow for potential route expansions and additional hours of service, which could include runs on Sundays, both Pike and St. George Public Works Director Cameron Cutler have said.

Infrastructure wise, funds from the sales tax would go to road upgrades and maintenance, as well as new projects. It would also be applied to infrastructure and facilities catering to active transportation needs (cycling and walking).

Larry Meyers, chairman of the Dixie Republican Forum, has voiced his opposition to the proposed tax increase.

“I think, if it doesn’t pass, it’s because people think taxes are too high and they would like the government to do more with what they have,” Meyers said. “People have told me the cities need to prioritize better and make roads a higher priority over other things that are spending money on.”

If the measure ultimately fails, Ivins Mayor Chris Hart has said that cities may need to cut funding to certain services in order to help cover road maintenance needs. Increased property taxes, particularly for smaller cities that lack a large commercial base, may be looked into to aid with road funding as well.

“Cities are faced with the choice that either we provide this service in the manner our residents expect, and find ways to budget that revenue to do it, or if we’re constricted to a point we simply don’t have any place to give, then the level of service has to drop off,” Hart said.

Email: mkessler@stgnews.com

Twitter: @MoriKessler

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2016, all rights reserved.

 

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10 Comments

  • RealMcCoy November 9, 2016 at 4:34 pm

    Whah whah whah…
    Indeed, work with what you have.
    The carefully worded phrases to push the tax forward include lines such as “funds from the sales tax would go to road upgrades and maintenance, as well as new projects.”
    New projects don’t need doing.
    Fix what’s broken and stop building roundabouts with outrageous and costly landscaping or art.
    Can’t afford the upkeep on the landscaping?- Rip it out and make it a rock garden.

    Pike likes to say things like “the voters will have given the city its “marching orders.” As such, certain projects will just take longer to get to, or not happen at all.”

    Oh, boo-hoo. You won’t get to put your name on a new fun project like another carousel or a theme park.

    Pike reiterated that sentiment over Facebook Tuesday night. “We will continue to do the best we can with the resources we have,” the mayor said.

    Yep- do with what you’ve got, just like the taxpayers you bleed dry have to do.

  • wilbur November 9, 2016 at 4:37 pm

    …………….Ivins Mayor Chris Hart has said that cities may need to cut funding to certain services in order to help cover road maintenance needs. Increased property taxes, particularly for smaller cities that lack a large commercial base, may be looked into to aid with road funding as well…………..

    sounds like “pass this tax, or we’ll ask for another, and another, and anothev till we get our way”

    threats

    (shoulda skipped the “RAP” tax, pal)

  • .... November 9, 2016 at 8:20 pm

    Maybe Dumbob can write a letter to the Governors office. I’m sure they actually care what he has to say LOL !

  • Mike November 9, 2016 at 10:26 pm

    This gets to be a joke! We need some money so just tax the people. ENOUGH is enough.

  • beacon November 10, 2016 at 7:54 am

    Hey, folks, just remember, St. George and surrounding area can never “look” too fancy. We have to cater to all the big money people who come to the area and to all those tourist who want a great “visual” experience, as if the landscape God provided isn’t enough!!

  • .... November 10, 2016 at 9:13 am

    This gets to be a joke ? Oh I wasn’t aware this was an article about RealLowlife LOL ! now that’s some funny stuff right there ha ha ha ha ha.

  • Ron November 10, 2016 at 9:45 am

    This sends a stern message to the County and the Cities who want this to pass. I myself am happy that it “may” not pass.
    It’s just like the Presidential election we just had, the citizenry is angry. Can’t you figure that out, Mayors Pike and Hart??
    And don’t worry, we all got your message, we know you’ll just come up with another tax hike in something that gets taxed
    already. You guys just don’t stop. Reminds me of my former wife when she would continue to write checks from our account when there were no more funds to cover them. She just would say, “we still have money, look at all these blank checks we still have”.
    The public ATM has run out of money!! Look what happened to the Democratic party a couple of days ago. THAT, can happen here. And so many claim to be shocked.
    LIVE WITHIN YOUR MEANS!!!

  • Robert November 10, 2016 at 11:53 am

    When will the good old boys understand, we the people are through with their shenanigans and will no longer support their back room deals. If the people trusted them, it would have passed, but they have created their own problems with the previous actions they have engaged in. The people are now awake.

  • Bob November 10, 2016 at 12:46 pm

    poor tax-and-spend mormon-republican (liberals?). whose money will they spend now?

  • Sapphire November 11, 2016 at 7:53 am

    So many road projects are done poorly. How much money has been wasted on Telegraph road because they don’t know what they are doing, and the ground keeps cracking and sinking over and over after every patch job? When the highway was connected coming into Sand Hollow from Washington, the new road was full of gouges and layers of asphalt right where the tires went. It is finally wearing down mostly, but what a shoddy job. Many of the streets that are rock chipped have new ruts within days. When we start making the road construction companies accountable for their quality, then I will consider voting for a new tax.

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