On the ballot this November, residents of rural Clarke County will have another chance to vote on a proposed imposition of a 1 cent sales tax through the local option sales and service tax (LOSST).
This time, instead of the funds going toward the Clarke County reservoir project, the funds will go to the secondary roads account.
Supervisor Dean Robins said supervisors are at the maximum of what they can levy taxpayers for secondary roads, which cannot exceed a dollar equivalent of a tax of three dollars and three-eights cents per thousand of assessed value on taxable property; for the fiscal year ended in 2022, that amount is about $900,000.00.
With inflation and the rising cost of gravel, they are not able to put down as much rock as needed. The problem becomes especially prevalent in the spring, as a combination of the ground thawing and spring rains leaves several county roads difficult to travel.
“What we’ve been hearing with the roads, we decided we’re going to try to make it better for the country,” said Robins.
Supervisors Robins and Larry Keller, along with Clarke County Engineer Christian Boehmer, had asked Osceola City Council at the council’s May 3 meeting for a resolution that would allow the supervisors to have a LOSST vote on the November ballot. City council did not pass the resolution.
Petitions were then started and enough signatures gathered to allow the supervisors to approve a resolution for a special election at their Aug. 8 meeting.
2007 LOSST to present - votes and proceeds
A special election held in September 2007 saw the use of LOSST funds from the county jail completed construction costs to the Clarke County reservoir project. At that time, all four entities - the cities of Osceola, Murray, Woodburn, and unincorporated Clarke County - went to vote. Osceola and Woodburn voted yes, while Murray and unincorporated Clarke County voted no.
LOSST went to vote again a year later due to a language change for the cities of Osceola and Woodburn, with Osceola voting yes and Woodburn no. In 2009, Murray and unincorporated Clarke County were able to again vote on the imposition of LOSST; this time Murray was a yes and unincorporated Clarke County still a no.
It was a no vote again in the 2010 general election from unincorporated Clarke County, and all three cities voted no to a repeal of LOSST in May of 2013.
Although all four entities contribute to LOSST, only the three cities receive payments from collected funds. The payments from LOSST are weighted based on population, with approximately $1.2 million collected annually. The cities then send that money to the Clarke County Reservoir Commission. The revenue from the proposed LOSST in the unincorporated areas will see 100% go to second roads, for use of construction, reconstruction and maintenance, including rock and culverts.
If rural Clarke County residents vote ‘yes’ to the 1 cent sales tax, the measure will go into effect July 1, 2023 and continue until July 1, 2033.
“[We] thought that way, if the next generation of people see the need somewhere else, [they] can go back to the polls at that time,” said Robins.
An estimated annual payment amount for unincorporated Clarke County would be $540,737.69 (figure from FY2021 LOST for Clarke County obtained from the Iowa Department of Revenue Levy Figures). The 2020 Census shows a population of 3,503 people in unincorporated Clarke County, making 35.94% of Clarke County. The payment amount for the unincorporated areas would be 42.59% of the total amount collected.
At the August 15 meeting, the supervisors voted ‘no’ to the request of a special election from the city of Murray, the purpose of which was to change the use of LOSST from the reservoir project to residential property tax relief for incorporated City of Murray.
Clarke County Attorney Adam Ramsey advised that per Iowa Code 423B.1, ‘Authorization – election – imposition and repeal,’ the city of Murray has an existing financial obligation to the Clarke County Reservoir Commission that needs to be fulfilled. Section 9 of the code reads “...a local option sales and service tax shall not be repealed if obligations are outstanding which are payable as provided…”
The proposed repealment was brought to the supervisors by petition.