County sales tax was the best move for all of us

AS HE LEFT THE Sheboygan County Courthouse after the County Board approved a one-half percent sales tax last week, Board Vice-Chair George Marthenze welcomed Sheboygan County to the rest of the state.

Marthenze – one of the seven supervisors who voted against instituting the sales tax – was referring to the fact that Sheboygan County became the 63rd of Wisconsin’s 72 counties to adopt the half-percent sales tax.

But while Sheboygan County is following the lead of the majority of counties around the state, they are breaking the mold in a number of ways.

For starters, the proceeds from the sales tax will be earmarked solely for county highway projects and equipment.

Of all the services provided by local governments, roads are probably the most-widely used by their constituents. All of us rely on roads – either directly, to get us to and from home, work, school, shopping and more; or indirectly, to bring us the goods and services we need every day.

Using the sales tax proceeds for roads will mean that the benefits of the tax will go to everyone that pays it.

It also means that sales tax proceeds from visitors to Sheboygan County will also go directly to that service which visitors use the most – and have not had to pay for in the past – the county highway system.

The benefits will also be spread locally throughout the county through another unique aspect of the county sales tax – a revenue-sharing provision that will divide $1.5 million of the proceeds among all the cities, villages and towns in the county for their street and road work.

Finally, the sales tax ordinance included a sunset provision calling on the County Board to study and revisit the tax in seven years and determine whether to continue it or not.

All of that makes Sheboygan County different from all other counties in the state when it comes to the sales tax.

Supervisors who opposed the sales tax had various sincere reasons for doing so, but in the end the right decision was made.

Several supervisors charged that the tax proceeds would be used for what they wrongly termed a “Taj Mahal” county highway department headquarters that will be build in the town of Plymouth.

That charge was specious and disingenuous. Not a penny of the sales tax will go toward that building – which will save taxpayers in the long run through consolidation and cost savings, as has occurred often in the recent past with other county consolidation efforts.

The sales tax is projected to cost each county resident about $67 a year. That will be more than repaid in the improved safety that properly-maintained highways throughout the county will provide for all of us.

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