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City leaders voted last week for a referendum to increase sales tax. SUBMITTED

Two citizens appeared before the Portland Board of Mayor and Aldermen to request support for placing the local sales tax option on the ballot for the November 2020 election.

Brian Woodall spoke to the council through the electronic meeting and Terry George sent an email to be read during the public recognition portion of the meeting held on June 22.

Since the tax collected would be designated for street improvements and paving, it would be a benefit to the city.

Woodall said, “If we did a jump on this and can get this voted in by citizens in five or six years our roads will look fantastic.”

George stated that it was time for those people who drive in from other cities to work in the industries the city has to offer help pay for the wear and tear on the streets. According to George, the lack of retail in Portland causes the city to rely on property owners to fund street repairs and paving plus paying for the public safety personnel.

George said, “We as local property owners have been on the hook for this money for too long and it is time for people who benefit from the industry this town has to offer to pay their share. Sales tax is the fairest because every person will contribute to the city’s finances instead of mainly property owners.

“I also charge this council with selling this approach to our voters. They need to be informed about all aspects of their decision.”

The council approved the ordinance on first reading to place a referendum on the November 2020 ballot to increase the local option sales tax rate from 2.25 to 2.75 percent. The ordinance on the ballot states that if approved, the additional proceeds from the increase in the sales tax will be used for street paving and street improvements. The vote was unanimous, with Alderman Drew Jennings absent.

The city will be required to submit the request to the county for their approval and at that time it can be placed on the ballot after a second reading, if approved by the county.

According to Alderman Megann Thompson, the last time the referendum was on the ballot it didn’t fail by a large margin. She asked the mayor how the city could educate the citizens that the tax is a benefit to the city and reduces the burden on the taxpayers in regard to money spent on street repairs and paving.

According to Mayor Mike Callis, it would be beneficial to have the tax increase, and added that it would only be a 5-cents on $10 or 50-cents on $100. He suggested that the city put together a promotion letting citizens know what the tax increase would look like and what it really means to the citizens.

He called on the council members to speak to the citizens to promote the tax increase. In addition, Finance Director Doug Yoeckel spoke in support of the tax increase stating benefits to the citizens.

           

Callis added, “The council is looking for a good option to provide adequate funding for paving and street improvements without placing the sole burden on property owners”

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