Sales tax vote coming for rural Van Buren County residents
KEOSAUQUA — A special Local Option Sales Tax election is set for March 5 in the unincorporated areas of Van Buren County.
Voters will be deciding the future of the 1 percent L.O.S.T., which has been in place for 10 years in those unincorporated areas and is set to expire June 30.
The tax generates an average of $275,000 yearly, with 100 percent of the funds used for property tax relief for rural taxpayers.
According to Van Buren County officials, if voters do not approve the L.O.S.T. measure, the property tax rate to replace those funds in the rural areas would need to increase by about $1.25 per $1,000 of taxable valuation resulting in about a 4.5 percent increase in a rural taxpayer’s total tax bill.
“It’s a pretty substantial tax increase,” said Van Buren County Auditor Jon Finney.
Finney said the timing of the vote is “interesting” because the county had to publish its proposed fiscal year 2014 budget this week, before voters had the opportunity to decide the future of L.O.S.T.
The proposed budget, he continued, is based on the assumption the L.O.S.T. measure is not passed.
The property tax asking to support the $6,715,966 proposed budget is $2,846,045 – a $266,444 increase from the current year tax asking.
About $200,000 of the proposed increase in property tax asking is attributed to the possible loss of L.O.S.T. revenue.
Finney said the proposed budget includes actual and estimated final L.O.S.T. carryover receipts in the rural services fund of about $110,000, with 100 percent of those funds to be used for property tax relief.
“So, really, if we didn’t have that carryover, the proposed increase in property tax asking would be more like $300,000,” he said.
If the L.O.S.T. measure is approved March 5, the Van Buren County supervisors anticipate reducing the property tax asking by about $200,000.
A public hearing on the proposed budget is set for 5 p.m. March 11 in the first-floor district courtroom in the Van Buren County Courthouse in Keosauqua.
Finney said no community meetings have been scheduled to educate voters about the L.O.S.T. measure.
“It was voted on in the general election in 2010 and was defeated 2-1. It was voted on in the general election in 2012 and was defeated with a 100 vote difference,” he said. “I think more and more people are understanding the implications of the vote.”
The L.O.S.T. measure is not a new tax, but an extension of the tax already in place. If approved by voters March 5, the tax would be extended in perpetuity.
Absentee voting is under way. Voters who will not be able to go to the polls March 5 can vote in person in the Van Buren County Auditor’s Office or request a ballot be sent by mail.
Friday is the deadline for requesting a ballot by mail. Requests must be made in writing and include full name, address, date of birth and date of the election. A standard request form can be found on the Iowa Secretary of State website at www.sos.state.ia.us.
Completed ballots being returned by mail must be postmarked no later than March 4 and be received in the auditor’s office by noon March 11.
Completed ballots also can be returned in person to the auditor’s office, but must arrive before the polls close at 8 p.m. March 5.
All cities in Van Buren County previously approved L.O.S.T. and levy a 7 percent sales tax on goods purchased in their jurisdictions.