The Dallas County Board of Supervisors decided on Tuesday not to impose a countywide sunset on the Local Option Sales Tax issue that will go to a vote this November. In the meeting before, it was decided that they had the authority to impose a sunset and two of the three Supervisors were initially leaning towards that option before hearing considerable opposition from several city mayors from around the county, and before hearing more information about the process for repealing the tax later on.
Four mayors and even some city administrators and city managers were in attendance at Tuesdays meeting and stood at the podium to voice their opinion that the Supervisors should not impose a sunset. No one voiced an opinion in favor of imposing a countywide sunset on the tax.
Brian Devick, Mayor of Woodward, said he has asked in the past why the Supervisors would want to impose a sunset, and so far, had not heard a good answer. He said he has heard that it is the county’s right to do so, but doesn’t think that means it’s a good idea.
“I also believe that, as elected officials, we don’t do things just because it’s our right, we do it because it makes sense and because it’s the best thing for all our citizens,” Devick said.
Devick said that he has been talking with people from the Woodward community about the possibility of a sunset and there hasn’t been anyone who said that they were in favor of a sunset.
“I’m here giving you my request that we do not have one (sunset), but it’s beyond me personally,” Devick said. “I represent fourteen-hundred other people up there in that town and I am the representative for those fourteen-hundred people asking you to not do that as well.”
Bill Peard, Mayor of Waukee expressed, on behalf of his city as well as on behalf of the Mayor of Urbandale, who had to leave Tuesday’s meeting before the discussion took place, that Waukee and Urbandale did not want to have a sunset imposed by the county.
“I believe that we, as a representative of the city that we are mayor of, understand the public and understand whether this thing is going to work or not work after 10 years,” Peard said. “So I really don’t think that we need a higher power dictating to a lower power, what the sunset provision should be.”
Alan Adams, Mayor of Van Meter said that if the Supervisors were to impose the sunset on the Local Option Sales Tax, they would be “stifling” the opinions of the citizens who petitioned for it and who vote for it this time around because of the amount of work that is required to get it put on the ballot in the first place.
“Let’s just say that they really appreciate all the Local Option Sales Tax money coming in because it’s helping with property tax relief, it’s helping with other projects in the community, things like that,” Adams said. “But if they don’t have a champion out there to go around and gather those 2,000 signatures again and get it on the ballot, they have no option to vote on it, and now they lose their option to receive that money.”
Adams said that he feels that the county government should not dictate what the individuals do in this regard.
“I think it’s up to the citizens to make that decision for themselves,” Adams said. “They will vote the tax in, or they will vote the tax out, and if we get 10 years down the road and they say… ‘we really don’t like the way you’re spending the money,’ or ‘I don’t think we want to pay this anymore,’ they can always come up and petition the city council to say we need to get rid of… the Local Option Sales Tax, and at that point, I think it can be brought to the Supervisors and it can be on the ballot.”
Supervisor Brad Golightly begged the question of whether or not it should be easier to get a tax taken away than it is to get it put on and Adams said that he believes that it is easier to have it repealed than to be put in place.
Dallas County Auditor, Julia Helm presented the two ways that the Local Option Sales Tax can be repealed in the future.
One is by a motion by a city council for their city, or by the Board of Supervisors for the unincorporated areas, as long as there are not any outstanding obligations on their budget. The other way is for the voters to petition, yet again, and have a repeal be put on a countywide ballot, after the tax has been in place for a year.
Devick said that the Department of Natural Resources has recently told them they need to make renovations to their sewer system and the lagoon system and that they will need to come up with about $3.5 million to do so. He said that they could bond out and pay that over about 15-20 years, but he would not want their Local Option Sales Tax to sunset in the middle of paying for that.
The vote to not impose a sunset was unanimous.
Cities around Dallas County, including those in the east that are partially in Dallas County and partially in Polk County, will be busy in the coming weeks putting together their ballot language for the special election to be held concurrently with city elections on Nov. 7.