The Grant County Commission held a special hearing Tuesday in the courthouse. Open to the public, it served as an opportunity for the commission to delineate important aspects of its newly defined budget and explain and answer questions pertaining to the upcoming special election on September 29.
In July, the commission passed a resolution which established a tax levy increase of .50 per 1K taxable valuation. In essence, a home valued at $100,000 would see a tax increase of $50 per year. The increase will start with the 2015 tax year payable in 2016. Property taxes account for 88% of the general fund’s revenue. In June, the commission passed a measure to increase the county wheel tax from $4 to $5 per wheel, while also increasing the maximum number of wheels from 4 to twelve. In response, citizens circulated petitions to bring both measures to a public vote. More than a sufficient number of signatures were gathered and filed with the County Auditor. Karen Layher Grant County Auditor verified the signatures and reported to the council, who then set the election for 29 September. Both measures will be on the same ballot, but each will be voted on independently. A majority is required for each measure to pass.
The road and bridge fund is separate from the general fund- a separate account is used- but monies are transferred from the general fund. The plan is to repave 10 miles every year to maintain demand. “We want to do them right,” stated commissioner Tucholke, “and we need three inches of tar to do it right.”
Due to recent changes by S.D. legislators, counties now compete for state grants for bridge projects and monies are awarded on a point system. To apply and receive state funds for these projects, the County must implement a wheel tax. Higher or increased wheel taxes equate to more points. Grant County has the second highest number of bridges in the state of South Dakota. When approved, the county crew will complete work on all bridges 40 feet or smaller. Bridges over 40 feet must be hired out.
All counties operate within the same system and Grant County’s levy at .50 is significantly lower than those imposed by Clark and Marshall counties at .90 and 1.0, respectively. In general, the measures usually pass uncontested and Grant County is unusual in its decision to exercise its right to bring the changes to a public vote.
Sample ballots are available, and absentee voting started 14 August.