The Mahaska County Farm Bureau sponsored an informational meeting on the process of the Local Option Sales Tax Thursday night at the ISU Extension office in Oskaloosa.
Tim Johnson from the state Farm Bureau office in Des Moines was the speaker who went through the entirety of the process. The Local Option Sales Tax (LOST) has been in the headlines recently in Mahaska County, as it has been 15 years since the last election.
There are 11 jurisdictions that will have separate votes on the LOST that can be used. The current estimate of funds from the tax should all 11 jurisdictions pass it will be around $2.17 million. Oskaloosa creates 90% of the county’s revenue, so should Oskaloosa not pass the tax, there would only be around $220,000 for the rest of the county to share for various purposes.
The distribution shares are decided by population. The current distribution shares see Oskaloosa receiving 47.2 percent of the tax. The Mahaska County Board of Supervisors oversee the rural area of the county, which has 39 percent of the shares. New Sharon gets 4.7 percent, and the rest of the county’s small towns receive 9.1 percent.
By the estimates, Oskaloosa will get about $1.2 million dollars in the tax this year, and the Board of Supervisors will control about $800,000, should all jurisdictions pass the tax.
The tax must come to a vote if a petition is passed with five percent of the county’s voters signing it. Such a petition was brought to the Mahaska County Auditor’s Office a few weeks ago.
The ballot language must be set for each jurisdiction by the end of February to give a full 60 days for voters to know the language ahead of the May 3rd special election.
The new tax will begin on January 1, 2017, should it pass at each jurisdiction. The current tax will expire on December 31, 2016. If the vote fails, there is still time for each jurisdiction to change the ballot language and have a new vote, as long as there is 60 days in between the language announcement and the special election.
When the tax appears on the ballot, the precise percentages for each project or fund will be listed along with the term of the tax, and the public will vote “yes” or “no” to the tax. The tax will be one penny per dollar.
There are ways that each jurisdiction can repeal their tax, but any change in the tax can go in effect on the January 1 or July 1 following the change.
The LOST has come into the public’s eye in Mahaska County due to a disagreement on where the funds should go, specifically the portion that is controlled by the Mahaska County Board of Supervisors.
There was no discussion of the potential uses for the tax at this meeting.
The City of Oskaloosa has jumped on board with a proposed Recreation and Early Childhood Education Facility that will upgrade the YMCA. Supporters state that this new facility will be a major recruiting tool in the efforts to grow Oskaloosa and the rest of Mahaska County.
For the project to be completed, however, the committee overseeing the project has stated that there needs to be financial support coming from the Board of Supervisors. The Supervisors, specifically Mark Doland and Mike VanderMolen, have stated that they are not sure that the facility will ever be self-sustaining, and that this was a prime opportunity to fund the Environmental Learning Center by Caldwell Park and continued work on the county roads around the county.
The debate will continue until the ballot language must be completed in February. The special election is set for May 3rd. We will have continuing coverage on the topic on KBOE Radio and on kboeradio.com.