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By Marlana Smith
Voters in Shelby County will be given the opportunity on the April 6 ballot to decide on whether or not to impose an additional $0.50 an acre tax on agricultural or horticultural property. This will allow more rock to be applied on gravel roads.
If Proposition 1 passes there would be a five-year sunset on this tax.
Presiding Commissioner Glenn Eagan said landowners are currently paying an average of $0.19 per-acre on their real estate tax toward the Road and Bridge Special Rock Fund.
The amount of money generated would be $145,000 paid on 290,000 acres. The proceeds of the tax would be placed in the Road and Bridge Special Rock Fund.
Currently, the county road tax rock budget is $325,000. The county is applying 70-75 tons of rock per mile, per year on 490 miles of gravel roads. The current price is about $9.00 a ton between the two local quarries.
“With prices and costs continuing to rise, the county has been forced to cut back on the amount of gravel used on our roads,” Western District Commissioner Terry Mefford said.
The total rock budget is $420,000. This also includes extra gravel that is hauled for schools and churches for which the county is reimbursed. Eagan said the budget also covers emergency repairs. For example, when the county has to haul extra material if a six-or seven-inch rain washes a road out. It also includes landowner purchases, Eagan added.
This same issue was on the ballot in 2016 but requested a $1.00 per acre tax. Eagan said after that election, the people indicted to him that was too much and wanted to see a sunset of five-years.
Eagan and Mefford voted for this issue to appear on the April 6 ballot at the Commissioners’ meeting held Jan. 19. Eastern District Commissioner Tom Shively was opposed.
“I think the way we are operating presently is sufficient without us taxing every year, for five-years,” Shively said.
Eagan feels additional funds are important because of the way the roads were a couple months ago after the snow, freezing and subsequent thawing.
“They were a disaster,” Eagan said.
Eagan explained how important it was for a school bus, ambulance or fire truck to have decent roads to drive on.
“As a new commissioner the last thing I wanted to do was raise taxes, but here we are,” Mefford said. “In the past few years, it seems like the roads are deteriorating and this is one avenue we can get to improve it.”
Some landowners paid over $2,000 for additional material to bring their roads back to good travel conditions.
“Some landowners feel that spreading this cost out through the tax would be a better alternative,” Eagan said. “This would give an opportunity to put more rock on the road; have a better base when we grade in-stead of grading mostly dirt like we do some of the time.”
According to Eagan, the county currently has a program if a landowner wants additional gravel, and when a truck load is delivered, the county pays for 1/3 of the rock. The landowner pays for the other two thirds of the material plus $2.00 per ton for hauling their portion.
Shively said there are 628 farms in Shelby County and the average size is 42 acres. Shively further explained the average person is going to put in $221 every year.
Shively indicated the landowners know now where the material goes when they pay for it.
“Hopefully, you wouldn’t have to have $221 every year worth of rock put on,” Shively said.
The Shelbina Special Road District is excluded from voting and receiving funding through this ballot issue.