LOST fails to pass in contiguous voting bloc


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The local option sales-tax ballot measure has failed to pass in the contiguous five towns of Johnson County — Coralville, Iowa City, North Liberty, Tiffin, and University Heights.

The towns voted 54 percent to 46 percent to fail the measure. The local option sales tax needed 60 percent to pass.

The voting bloc voted no by a margin of 19,374 to 16,651 with 36,025 total votes cast.

“What’s most important is that the need will not go away,” said Iowa City Mayor Pro Tem Susan Mims.

Mims said she was cautiously optimistic before the measure, but there are some options still available.

“There are a couple of options,” she said. “One of which is cutting services, which likely wouldn’t be for two or three years, another would be raising property taxes.”

The tax, if passed in full, would have been a 1-cent increase on sales tax that would give approximately $20 million dollars yearly to Johnson County, an estimated $10 million dollars of which would have gone to Iowa City.

While the tax measure failed in a majority of places in Johnson County, a few places will still see the increase in tax and revenue — Hills, Lone Tree, Solon, Swisher, and West Branch, said Supervisor Terrance Neuzil.

The money each city receives can be used only in the way decided by their ballot measure.

Now for every taxable dollar of goods and services in communities that said yes, one penny will be taken for the tax. Some goods are exempt from sales tax — food, prescription drugs, cars, gasoline, resale items, and on the sales tax holiday — and the 1-cent raise won’t apply.

For Iowa City that would have included 50 percent for street improvements, 40 percent for property tax relief, and 10 percent for affordable housing.

“Looking at it from a pavement perspective, we’re going to continue to defer our maintenance,” Iowa City Public Works Director Rick Fosse said.

Fosse said there isn’t enough in the road fund to continue to keep up with maintenance on roads and the asphalt-covering program.

The second-largest area voting for the tax were the unincorporated areas of Johnson County. They failed the measure 54 percent to 46 percent, which isn’t what Neuzil expected to come from the lower population towns of Johnson County.

“I was pretty surprised rural citizens didn’t want to get a penny back into the rural unincorporated parts of Johnson County,” he said.

Neuzil said the reason he was surprised is because the majority of the sales tax is collected in the contiguous five and if the measure had been passed by both the contiguous block and the unincorporated part, the rural places would have seen some of their spent money returned to their hometowns.

He said the measure failed in part in the two largest areas because of a lack of cooperation between Iowa City and the unincorporated areas.

“It’s huge if [Iowa City] proposes another sales tax [that] they work with other areas in the county,” he said.

With the tax failing in the contiguous cities and the need still there, Mims said she expects the local option sales tax to be on a ballot again in the future.

“My guess is that it will be back on there again,” she said.

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