An election has been set for March 9 in Polk County, with one ballot item – a renewal of a county-wide tax.
When initially approved by voters, the tax contained a “sunset” provision, which means every seven years voters decide if the tax should be renewed.
In 2020 the tax provided $1,731,686 to the county, as well as $51,943 to Cove, $75,332 to Grannis, $56,159 to Hatfield, $780,108 to Mena, $11,830 to Vandervoort, and $102,527 to Wickes for a total of $2,809,588.
County Judge Brandon Ellison has attributed the increase in the sales tax over previous years in part to the collection of internet sales tax.
That increase may result in the lowering of millages to keep property taxes at the current revenue level.
“The Quorum Court has informally agreed, or at least, had no objections to removing all road mills off of the property tax levy, which happens in the November meeting, if the renewal is passed,” Ellison explained. “So, [if the renewal passes] it will remove 1.2 mills off of your property tax.”
Mena Mayor Seth Smith said renewing the tax is not only vital to the county as a whole, but also to the cities and towns that receive revenue from the tax.
“We have got to get this,” he said. “It is a major source of revenue.”
Smith said Mena’s budget has ear marked funds from the sales tax revenue for projects such as sidewalks, hot mix program, playground equipment and more.
“I want to fix and maintain what we have,” Smith said. “We try to find grants and other opportunities for sources of funding projects. But in some cases, like with the bathroom renovations at Janssen Park, we were not awarded the grant last year. So this year we are going out on our own, and for projects like that, the revenue the tax generates is where the money comes from.”
Items purchased in 2020 by the City of Mena include a John Deer 50G excavator, John Deer skid steer loaders with multiple attachments, street sweeper, grapple bucket, two dump trucks, a brush cutter, a John Deer 85G excavator, John Deer 550K crawler dozer, and a 100 horse Kabota tractor with 20 foot side boom king mower.
“These equipment purchases have helped immensely with spring clean up and makes us much more efficient,” he said. “It doesn’t take long to drive around and see where this has been put to use and it has been helpful.”
“If that goes away, we are going to have to reconsider our expectations of what we are able to fix and maintain, much less additional projects,” Smith said, noting equipment purchases may not be glamorous, but make things run smoothly and lessen the amount of time residents are impacted.
“When we are dipping ditches we use a backhoe, and you can only go so far, with an excavator, because it is on tracks and is a 360 degree turn radius. Now we don’t have to reposition, so it expedients times on the job. Crews have accomplished more work in last two years than in the last five because it is so much quicker.”
Smith said one example of the use of equipment occurred during the flood at Prairie Creek in August.
“It was done in a day with an excavator, but it would have been a week long project with backhoes. More tools in our arsenel helps us keep things running.”
Fire departments are also strengthened through the tax revenue.
“Supply line and fire hose that were out of regulation have been replaced, as well as nozzles, hand tools, hydrophilic tools and other things we don’t think about – until it is your home or loved one who has an emergency. These are things you want your departments to have when you are affected.”
About the Election
The county 1 cent sales tax funds restricted use for road and bridge for county and general use for cities.
It was first passed in 2007 and renewed in 2014 with a 7 year sunset.
Polk County receives 57% of the revenue and cities share 43% based on population.
Sales tax is considered a more fair and broad way of funding roads and bridges, because all road users will pay the sales instead of just property owners, including tourists, travelers, and people that do not pay property taxes.
Current sales tax expires June 30, 2021.
Polk County Office Complex(Old Hospital), 601 Pine Street, Mena. (Election Day And Early Vote Site)
First Baptist Fellowship Hall, 811 Port Arthur (8th Street Side), Mena (Election Day Only)
American Legion Building, 3253 Hwy 71 N, Mena,(Election Day Only))
Concord Baptist Church, 3467 Hwy 88 E., Mena, (Election Day Only)
Salem Baptist Church, 115 Polk Road 56, Mena,(Election Day Only)
Hatfield Auditorium, 117 Cemetery Road, Hatfield, (Election Day Only)
Cove Town Hall, 5568 Hwy 71 S, Cove, (Election Day Only)
Wickes Community Center, 136 Stevenson Dr., Wickes, (Election Day Only)
Grannis Town Hall, 132 Franchiser Road, Grannis,(Election Day Only)
Early voting begins Tuesday, March 2 and continues through Monday March 8. Hours for early voting will be Monday-Friday from 8 a.m to 4:30 p.m. early voting will end at 4:30 p.m. on Monday, March 8.
Election day each vote center will be open from 7:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m.