Des Moines to place utility tax increase on August ballot

The city of Des Moines will ask its residents to raise their utility tax by 2 percent for 20 years to pay for preserving and maintaining the pavement on city streets.

A proposition to increase the city’s utility tax from 6 percent to 8 percent will be on the Aug. 6 primary ballot. The extra 2 percent will be earmarked for the paving projects.

Interim Public Works director Dan Brewer proposed to lawmakers that the increase be for 10 years.

But Councilmember Jeanette Burrage said ten years is too short a time. Burrage added that the city could repeal the tax increase before the 20-year deadline if it was not needed. She noted the utility tax increase rejected by voters last year would have been permanent.

Burrage said she couldn’t see another source of funding available for maintaining the street pavement.

Brewer noted that preventative maintenance costs a lot less than replacement of roads.

“You get more bang for your buck,” he noted.

The goal would be to maintain 4 to 5 miles of pavement each year, he said. Brewer reported the city has 215 lane miles of city roadway.

Brewer emphasized city officials should give voters a “clear message” that the extra funding would not go for extending roadways or building new curbs, gutters and sidewalks.

Burrage argued that Brewer’s original proposal would not allow for reconstruction of South 223rd Street.

The lawmakers amended the proposal to allow the funds to be used for rehabilitation or reconstruction of existing streets. The vote to place the measure on the ballot passed 5-0. Mayor Dave Kaplan and Councilmember Bob Sheckler were not present.

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