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Council differs on transit tax, agrees on need to fund roads

Article Date: 
18 July, 2014 (All day)

Not every member of the Morgan County Council agrees with putting a transit tax on the ballot, or how the county should fund road repair and maintenance.
“I am not sure if I am in favor of a transit tax,” Morgan County Council Chairman Logan Wilde said.  
The county has been discussing raising sales tax to fund transit, perhaps through an agreement with the Utah Transit Authority (UTA).  That tax must be approved before an additional tax meant to provide funds to repair and maintain county roads could be added to the sales tax increase.
Wilde said he is concerned with the view that passing the transit tax is the only way that could lead to funding county roads.
When he reads the fine print about sales tax for funding roads, Wilde said there are too many stipulations. 
“You can’t just use it for any road project.  There are a lot of caveats,” Wilde said.  “I am not sure this is a good option.  My concern is we raise tax and collect money for roads, but not all the money can be used on Morgan County roads.”
For example, non-collector roads such as Lost Creek may not qualify for the spending of taxes.
The council agrees that funding roads in the county is a need that requires immediate attention.
“We need to do something with roads,” Wilde said.  “It is going to impact the value of homes, way of life and people’s bottom dollar.  I have spent $800 on tires this year.”
Councilman Robert Kilmer said if the county allows roads to deteriorate, those roads could be pulled from the Class B list, which would result in a further loss of state and federal funding.
Kilmer said he would like to compile a list of all possible options for funding roads in the county before specifically focusing on one option.
“I would like to see all the options in one break down,” Kilmer said.  “I want to see all the options the legislature has given us for funding roads, and what we must do to get that funding.”
UTA is planning a future public meeting to explore putting a sales tax increase on the ballot in November.  Councilman Lyle Nelson said it is a way to explore one option the council has before it.  
“I still think the county has a bunch of options way before we raise taxes,” Councilman Ned Mecham said.  “To me, the county should be looking at some other revenue.  Raising taxes is a very, very last resort.”
Nelson said given the county departments’ slim budgets that have shrunk in recent years, there is no other option but to raise taxes.  Kilmer also agreed that county budgets are too slim to squeeze additional money for roads out of them.
Wilde and Councilwoman Tina Kelley said the county may want to consider lobbying the legislature in support of a local option tax.