County-wide sales tax increase approved by a single vote

    The Polk County Board of Commissioners voted 3-2 to approve a sales tax increase of one-quarter percent Tuesday and the Times caught up with District 3 and District 4 Commissioners Gary Willhite and Joan Lee to ask what their reasons were for voting against the proposal. Both agreed that after talking with their constituents and area businesses who were either for or against the proposal, they voted the way they felt was best for the county.

    “I had talked to constituents and businesses that were against the sales tax, and I also talked to constituents and businesses that were in favor of the sales tax,” explained Lee. “They all had their own reasons for their stand.”

    “I voted the way that I felt the most comfortable with,” she added. “I had changed my mind different times and wasn’t sure how I was going to vote until the night before.”

    Lee told the Times that she was concerned that the businesses in the eastern part of the county would be affected more than other parts.

    Willhite says that, in his opinion, the board did not follow the process that should have been implemented to determine how what type of funding they need for transportation with the various choices of tax levy, Wheelage Tax or sales tax increase.

    “The funding source became complicated when the board reacted quickly to eliminate the Wheelage Tax for 2018,” stated Willhite. “It set in motion a sales tax increase or to levy additional taxes for transportation.”

    “Another concern for me was, is this only the beginning?” he added. “Are we opening the door for future county sales tax increases to offset deficits?”

    “The Social Services budget will most likely reflect a deficit this year due in part to less financial support from the federal government and more demand for services,” Willhite continued.

    Over the next month or two, the County Board will be reviewing department budget requests for 2018 and Willhite says he is looking to “limit budget growth and maintain services.”

    “As we do with our own family budgets, it is important to manage our wants and our needs considering what our residents can support and afford,” Willhite remarked.