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Johnson County would see 4-year tax, if approved

BY SHANE ERSLAND | FEBRUARY 27, 2009 7:30 AM

In a contentious decision, the Johnson County Board of Supervisors voted 3-2 in favor of a four-year plan for the proposed local-option sales tax in the event that voters approve it.

Voters will decide whether they will pay an 1 cent in sales tax at a special May 5 election. If approved, the tax will go into effect July 1 and run through June 30, 2013.

The money raised would go toward repairing infrastructure projects that were damaged as a result of last summer’s flooding.

The way the measure is set up, the supervisors are responsible for deciding how long the sales tax would be implemented.

Supervisor Chairman Terrence Neuzil voted against the four-year plan, arguing it would delay the proposed Justice Center project.

“People need to realize that the Justice Center needs to be a part of any initiatives for infrastructure improvements,” he said.

There would not be many opportunities to address the Justice Center project until the tax issue is off the books, he said.

Supervisor Pat Harney originally thought the sales tax would last three years, but the extra year Supervisor Sally Stutsman proposed will make a big difference in addressing the Justice Center project, Harney said.

“If residents are already paying for an extra sales tax, it’s going to be difficult to come back to them and say ‘We want another penny for the Justice Center,’ ” he said.

Johnson County Sheriff Lonny Pulkrabek agreed that the Justice Center needs to be a bigger priority right now.

“By voting for the sales tax, the cities would be implying that the Justice Center is not a critical infrastructure,” Pulkrabek said.

A new justice center is important, he said, because the current jail is over capacity and it costs $300,000 to $400,000 a year to transport inmates to other detention facilities.

Neuzil said he will vote against the sales tax in the election, and he will advocate that residents do the same.

“If it fails, I hope Iowa City, Coralville, North Liberty, and Johnson County can sit at a table and prioritize all the infrastructure projects and figure out how we’re going pay for them,” Neuzil said.


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