A primary motivator for the passage of the City of Carroll’s 1 percent local-option sales tax in 2003 was the construction of a new fire station and the remodeling the police department in the former fire hall. The total commitment through the local-option sales tax for these project was $2,996,672.
A primary motivator for the passage of the City of Carroll’s 1 percent local-option sales tax in 2003 was the construction of a new fire station and the remodeling the police department in the former fire hall. The total commitment through the local-option sales tax for these project was $2,996,672.
Friday, August 3, 2012

Let’s forget for a few moments this scorched-earth, dry-tongue of a summer.

Think back to Christmas 2003.

After all, who doesn’t like remembering Christmases past. It even worked for Scrooge in the end, once he wiped the sands of greed from his eyes and saw the world clearly.

The Carroll Chamber of Commerce in 2003 ran a “shop Carroll” promotion, aimed at keeping people out of the malls of Des Moines and Omaha, Neb., and here with our merchants. The Chamber collected 20,643 contest entries, 10,989 (or 53 percent) of which were from outside of the 51401 ZIP code.

Keep in mind, this is before our revitalization of downtown Carroll and the Baddings’ transformation of the Carroll Depot Business Center and the arrival of a Walmart Supercenter, developments that collectively super-charged our already healthy retail draw. More recent analysis from the Iowa State University Department of Economics shows the City of Carroll in possession of retail statistical gold — a positive pull factor, meaning we sell far more goods and services in our city limits than our own population of 10,103 can support.

Which takes us to an obvious point: visitors to Carroll clearly play a major role in our sales-tax collections.

People from Lake View and Denison and Audubon helped us with local-option sales-tax dollars over the past 10 years.  And the local-option revenue financed, among other things, $950,000 in street repair and a $50,000 city hall boiler and a $56,300 airport tractor and $125,000 for traffic signals at the intersection of Griffith Road and U.S. Highway 30.

A “yes” vote on Tuesday to renew the City of Carroll’s 1 percent local-option sales tax keeps the outside dollar flow from turning into a dry spigot.

Increasingly, our neighboring communities rely on the retail muscle of Carroll, too. The sales tax is collected countywide and disbursed to cities and the county based on a state-mandated formula that takes into consideration population and other factors. This makes the county and many of the small towns that are so vital for our success into big winners. It’s why every mayor in the cities of Carroll County publicly supports the local sales tax.

For small-government advocates, rest assured, we have a conservative Carroll City Council. Free-spenders, dreamers, they are not. Flinty-eyed Councilwoman Carolyn Siemann measures each action down to the penny, as if a team of accountants were hovering over her. Mayor Adam Schweers just sought the Republican nomination for  the State Senate as a young conservative with the blessing of five-term GOP Gov. Terry Branstad (whose Mission No. 1 is reducing commercial property taxes). Newer council members Dr. Eric Jensen and Michael Kots ask among the most-thorough, challenging questions I’ve heard in 15 years of covering the Farner Government Building.

This is not a crew chasing Cadillac projects.

The priority at city hall is maintaining the property-tax rate. More and more, basic services are being funded with local-option sales-tax revenues.

Expect more street repair all over town to be paid for this way if the state doesn’t act to sustain Road Use Tax money, and maybe even if it does.

Without the local-option sales tax as a revenue stream, council members may have no choice in the next decade but to compensate with higher property taxes, which hit commercial-property owners especially hard as we are taxed at 100 percent.

It’s one of the primary reasons the Carroll Chamber of Commerce has taken the rare step of endorsing a public measure.

The common sense vote on Tuesday is an indisputable “yes.”

All of this said, the renewal is no shoo-in. Many voters, anxious and angry with Washington, D.C., see the Carroll ballot as a vessel for expression of their broader distrust and dissatisfaction with government, their ideological view that all taxes are evil. They are kicking the cat after the dog fouled the living room carpet. Carroll is not Washington. Adam Schweers is not King George.

If voting were compulsory, we have little doubt the local-option sales tax would earn renewal and escape the 2013 sunset. But the angry voices of doom, the afternoon coffee show-offs, are more motivated than the satisfied or generally pleased or positive residents of Carroll.

We need a common-sense majority at the polls Tuesday.

Do the right thing for your city: make sure you vote.

Do the right thing for your city: vote “yes.”