Mission mayoral and city council candidates on the issues: 3/8-cent sales tax for roads

Lamar Avenue

Mission mayoral and city council candidates discuss the city's special sales tax renewal intended for infrastructure, such as road improvements like the one above from summer 2020. File photo.

The Post asked readers in August about the issues they wanted to hear candidates running for Mission mayor and city council seats address. Based on that feedback, we developed a five-item questionnaire with the most important issues to Mission residents.

Each day this week, we’ll publish the candidates’ responses to one of five questions. Today, we’re publishing candidates’ responses to the following question:

The city held a mail-in election in September asking residents to renew a three-eighths cent sales tax to continue funding road improvement projects. Do you support the city using this mechanism to bolster its road maintenance funds? If so, why? If not, what other approach should the city be taking?

Below are the answers the Post received from candidates on this issue:

Mayor

Arcie Rothrock

Streets are top priority for many of our Mission residents. Top priority, not because they want streets paved in gold, but because they want streets without massive potholes, streets that are not in constant disrepair, and they deserve it. Heck, they pay for it in taxes. I absolutely support the renewed quarter-cent sales tax because for one, we gave the residents a voice and they used it by voting in support, and two, it ensures our ability to continue funding road improvement projects, while at the same time sharing that financial burden with others outside of Mission.

Sollie Flora

I voted on Council to advance a 3/8 cent sales tax on the ballot when it was time to renew our expiring 1/4 cent sales tax that supports funding street improvements. I also voted “yes” in casting my ballot as a resident of Mission. Ultimately, our renewed street sales tax passed with 77.15% support (23.97% voter turnout). I wasn’t surprised, since survey results (and conversations knocking doors) show that streets are a top resident priority and residents support increased investment in this area.

We have to be cautious about our overall tax burden, including our sales tax burden. But as local elected officials, we also have to work to create a balanced revenue stream. Having the street sales tax reduces our reliance on property taxes and also helps spread the tax burden beyond our own residents (as it’s not just Mission residents who shop at our local businesses). Failing to take action on our streets isn’t an option – decades of deferred maintenance have caught up with us in a bad way. We need infrastructure investments to preserve property values and attract businesses to our city.

Another big advantage of the successful street sales tax renewal is it gives us a source of revenue for the next 10 years (until it expires or is renewed again). With these funds, the city can now explore potential bond options. I think it makes sense to look at taking advantage of current low interest rates to take out bonds and accelerate our residential street work (now that we have a way to pay the debt service on those bonds).

Ward 2

Keith Viken

I am not opposed to it, but I would like it better if not done through a mail-in election. I would have wanted to see it done in a normal election process, like on Nov. 2. What worries me is that Mission has one of the highest sales taxes around. I feel the increased sales tax needs to be addressed.

Lea Loudon

I support the sales tax renewal and I’m pleased it passed with overwhelming support. The sales tax revenue should only be used as intended for street and infrastructure maintenance. The renewal of this sales tax is a smart way to increase revenue because the tax isn’t borne strictly on Mission residents but on anyone who shops in Mission.

This prevents increases in mill levies and property taxes. Streets are one of the most important priorities to Mission residents and are an important part of our overall infrastructure. Maintaining our streets is yet another way to show people Mission is a great city that makes safe and smooth streets a priority. The city of Mission should also continue seeking funding from federal, state, and county sources to pay for street maintenance. Unfortunately, one doesn’t have to travel far in the metro area to break an axle in a pot hole. Let’s continue to invest in Mission’s streets.

Joe Donaway

Did not respond.

Ward 4

Ray Ruecker

I supported and voted for this increase. My only request is that the city uses this fund for this sole purpose ONLY and not used for other projects.

Ben Chociej

Yes, I am in favor of the use of sales tax in this particular instance to provide vital funding for road repair and maintenance. Clearly Mission residents agree, as the ballot measure passed overwhelmingly. While sales tax is not always the answer, and I recognize that sales tax rates around the metro (including Mission) can be burdensome, the mail ballot renewal of Mission’s street sales tax made a lot of sense for multiple reasons.

First, the increased tax burden was small – just an additional 13 cents on a $100 purchase. And the relative impact of that small increase will be large in terms of the city’s ability to make badly needed repairs. Mission has suffered decades of underfunding and deferred maintenance, so it is necessary to take measures to “catch up” with our past neglect of our roads.

Second, the sales tax mechanism lets us collect revenue from people who don’t live in Mission but shop at our businesses and dine at our restaurants. That way, the tax is more fairly applied to all users of the roads, not just Mission’s residents. Since our roads are very interconnected with surrounding municipalities and provide thoroughfares to much larger metro-area populations, it’s reasonable to collect street maintenance revenue in a way that reflects the regional usage and connectedness of our roads.

Finally, with the COVID-19 pandemic affecting many residents’ income streams, and with property values rising strongly in recent years, asking residents to pay for street infrastructure via property tax is not a reasonable solution at this time. So, at this time, I believe that the sales tax was the right choice for funding our street maintenance goals.

On Friday, we’ll publish candidates’ answers to the following question:

This summer, Mission kicked off a conceptual redesign for Broadmoor Park, located just off Johnson Drive. A one-acre dog park is included in the plans for the redesign, which is consistent with city officials’ previous statements that if a dog park were to be built in Mission, it would likely be at Broadmoor Park. But residents had mixed emotions about the potential dog park — some thought it would be a nice amenity, while others were concerned about maintenance and safety. Do you support the years-long initiative to bring a dog park to Broadmoor Park? Why or why not?