City commission approves sales tax ballot proposal


Manhattan residents will have to decide on a 0.2 percent sales tax increase this November.

City commissioners approved of placing the question in front of voters at their meeting Tuesday night. The funds generated from the ballot proposal would be used for street upkeep.

If approved, the increase would raise the current total state and local tax rate from 8.75 to 8.95 percent.

That number had Commissioner Wynn Butler concerned.

“The issue that gets me hung up is, I don’t want to see this thing go to (8.95 percent),” Butler said. “We do have a quality of life tax and that is 0.25, which could be sunset (expire) before this one goes into effect.”

Butler said the quality of life tax was used to build city pools and should end now that their construction is complete.

“I think if we continue it any farther, we’re going to lose trust (from residents),” Butler said. “There is that trust factor, and it’s going to haunt us if we leave that thing without sunsetting it.”

City Manager Ron Fehr clarified information about the quality of life tax, stating that it would not be economically possible to let the tax expire until late 2017.

“Our estimates say that sometime late fall next year, we think there will be enough cash to be able to call for the sunset and call the bonds,” Fehr said. “I would recommend that you don’t do that until we’re pretty certain that the cash is going to be there to pay for everything that we’ve obligated so far.”

Mayor Karen McCulloh said the pullback of state funding leaves the city with few choices of raising funds for street maintenance.

“We’ve got to fix the roads, and we’ve looked at every opportunity,” McCulloh said. “The state’s budget is in the dumps, and we’re going to have to do it ourselves. … I really am against sales tax, but I don’t see how we have any other options.”

During the discussion, Butler said he thought about voting against the ballot proposal due to his distrust of other commissioners to let other taxes expire in the future.

“There’s a trust factor out there,” Butler said. “And I’m leaning towards voting no on this because I’m getting the feeling that the support for keeping these taxes down is not there from the commission.”

City Commissioner Mike Dodson said that he felt all commissioners were on the same page regarding sales taxes.

“I think everybody up here has at least one thing in common,” Dodson said. “We’re sensitive to taxes, also sensitive to getting the roads fixed.”

The city commission passed the ballot proposal 5-0.