Boone County voters overwhelmingly approved a 10-year extension of the half-cent sales tax for maintaining roads and bridges Tuesday.
The official tally from the county clerk's office showed that 13,495, or 86 percent, of voters approved the tax while 2,217, or 14 percent, voted against it. Fourteen percent of the county's registered voters cast ballots.
"It's so important for us as a community to have this source of funding to maintain transportation infrastructure," Northern District Commissioner Janet Thompson said. "You can't take your roads and bridges for granted."
This is the third extension of the road tax, which was first approved with a five-year sunset clause in 1993. Voters renewed the tax for another 10 years in 1997, and again in 2007.
The tax's enactment came with a county-wide rollback on the property tax levy, from 29 cents to 5 cents per $100 assessed valuation.
The latest extension ensures the tax will remain in place through September 2028.
In May, the commission discussed the possibility of extending the tax permanently. After comments and feedback form the public, however, the commissioners decided to put the issue on the ballot with the 10-year expiration date.
Thompson said while she would be happy with a permanent tax, she felt like it was something the county should not risk taking to the ballot.
"The need will never go away," Thompson said. "I think that's something we need to acknowledge at some point, but I understand the voters' concern. I understand their desire to have that accountability."
Originally passed in the '90s to pave at least 50 miles of gravel roads in a five year period, the half-cent sales tax is now mostly used to maintain and repair existing inventory.
Last year, about $18 million was budgeted to keep up country transportation infrastructure, and 80 percent of the funding came from the half-cent sales tax.
Expected to bring $14.3 million this year, the road tax has generated about $240 million for Boone County as of the end of 2016.
Fifteen to 20 supporters of the ballot issue gathered at Billiards on Broadway to watch the election results Tuesday night.
“It’s reasonable to pay taxes for good projects,” Billiards owner Les Wagner said.
Boone County Public Works Director Greg Edington said thanks to the road tax, the county will be able to continue to keep the roads and bridges up to snuff.
Former Gov. Roger Wilson, who served as the chair of the campaign committee for road tax extension, said the sales tax is crucial for the county's public safety and commerce.
"I'm a lifelong resident of Boone County," Wilson said. "I grew up on gravel roads, and no one understands that it's a lot of work to take care of that."
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