Continued infrastructure improvements and economic development are what residents can expect if voters renew Buchanan County’s capital improvements sales tax on Tuesday, Nov. 5.
The tax raises approximately $3.5 million annually for local economic and infrastructure development. The funds are raised by charging a quarter of a cent on sales inside the county. This tax is separate entirely from the city of St. Joseph’s half-cent sales tax, which is similarly called the Capital Improvements Program.
One of the differences between the city and county CIPs is the city outlines its projects before the ballot measure is voted on, while county officials plan out the spending as they go.
“The biggest need is what we try to hit on,” Presiding Commissioner Lee Sawyer said.
This consists of infrastructure and economic development. Infrastructure spending includes road and courthouse restoration, sheriff’s vehicles, supplementing the Law Enforcement Center and recent upgrades to the Buchanan County Academy.
The improvements at the academy cost approximately $175,000, and the Buchanan County Commission selected Crawford Construction, a local contractor, to perform the work.
“If we didn’t have (the tax), we’d be scratching our head on where we’re going to come up with this kind of money,” Western District Commissioner Ron Hook said. “We use local contractors on everything we use and do. We got another project coming out with jail upgrades, and that’s a collaboration with the city and the county.”
Capital improvement program economic development includes incentive deals that help businesses relocate to the county. Notable uses of this are Boehringer Ingelheim Vetmedica back in 2010 and more recently Yellow Frog Graphics at Mitchell Woods Business Park.
“Brad Lau at the chamber (of Commerce) along with Patt Lilly, they kind of have the agreements and then we have to approve the agreements before we go forward,” Hook said. “One thing we don’t and we’ve never really done is retail. We don’t get into economic development for retail.”
The county’s CIP tax was last approved in February of 2012, with 63 percent voter approval. Prior to that, a ballot measure failed in 2011 when it included no sunset clause. However, at that time its sunset had not expired, and it was renewed for eight years the following year.
The county’s capital improvement tax originally was passed in 1986, making it older than the city’s CIP tax, which began three years later.