County sales tax the best alternative for roads

SOMETIMES A WORD WITH just a few letters can evoke a huge visceral response. Most often, it can be a word with four letters, but sometimes it takes just three letters – like t, a and x.

Just mention the word, as in a half-percent county sales tax, and some people will automatically and unalterably voice their opposition.

The same people who will pay 95 cents today for a hamburger at a fast-food restaurant that cost them 79 cents 10 years ago, or $1.48 for a loaf of bread that cost them 97 cents in 2006, without protest will scream loudly and write letters to the editor when their county government proposes that they pay an additional 1 cent on every $2 they spend in the form of a county sales tax.

Never mind that the county’s property tax levy – the total tax bill that every county taxpayer shares in to support county government – has gone up only 9 percent over the past decade, as opposed to 20 percent for that hamburger and more than 50 percent for that loaf of bread.

That’s because the message has been drummed repeatedly that tax is a dirty word, all taxes are a bad thing and no tax should be raised, ever, no matter what the reason or impact.

The proposed county sales tax – authorized by the state in 1985 and already adopted by 62 of the state’s 72 counties – would be earmarked specifically to finance highway maintenance and upkeep, by both the county and local municipalities, through a unique proposal to share a portion of the sales tax proceeds with all of the county’s cities, towns and villages based on equalized property valuation.

Of the many services provided by county government, roads are certainly one of the most widely utilized by all county residents. But like many other levels of government, the county has been challenged to keep up with necessary road repair and maintenance.

Those blindly opposed to all taxes and tax increases have scrambled to propose alternatives, such as increased borrowing or reducing other county services, but those would cost the county and, more importantly, county taxpayers more in the long run.

Sheboygan County has already cut and controlled services and costs over the past 15 years to a degree unmatched by most levels of government. County facilities have been privatized, closed or consolidated; departments have been combined to provide greater efficiencies; and the number of employees and county payroll have both been significantly reduced over that period.

Increased borrowing would have to be paid for by future taxpayers, while adopting a sales tax would enable the county to reduce its future borrowing – meaning more savings for taxpayers.

Cutting services to the level needed to finance needed roadwork would create undue hardships for those of all ages and stations among us who depend on them, not to mention the peril to public safety, health and welfare that would create.

Nobody likes to pay more taxes or see new taxes. They are an added hardship for all of us, there is no denying.

But to blindly oppose a half-percent county sales tax, even when that is reasonable and preferable to the alternatives – deteriorating, unsafe roads; increased borrowing costs; unsafe cuts to other county services – is an even greater hardship and disservice.

It will be worth the less than half-a-cent extra paid in tax on that hamburger to guarantee safe roads for all of us.

Most recent cover pages:

Copyright 2009-2019 The Plymouth Review, All Rights Reserved

Contact Information

113 E. Mill St., Plymouth WI 53073
Local: 920-893-6411 Toll Free: 1-877-467-6591
Fax: 920-893-5505