Boone County voters face road-funding ballot issue

Boone County voters on Tuesday will decide whether to renew the county's half-cent sales tax that funds the highway budget. (Garrett Bergquist)

A Boone County commissioner on Friday said county road funding is increasingly critical as the state transfers more road responsibilities to other jurisdictions.

Boone County voters on Tuesday will decide whether to renew for another 10 years the half-cent sales tax that funds road maintenance. Southern District Commissioner Fred Parry said the tax covers 80 percent of the county's highway budget. He said charging a sales tax lets the county keep property taxes for road maintenance low and transfers the cost of maintaining the roads to visitors doing business in Boone County. Parry said road repairs are as much a safety issue as they are an infrastructure issue.

"Some of these funds are used for improving right-of-way, maintaining ditches and culverts, because drainage and water problems tend to be a significant issue for maintenance," he said.

Columbia attorney William Samuels said funding Boone County's roads out of a sales tax unfairly shifts the tax burden to the working poor and middle class. He said those groups spend a larger proportion of their income on basic necessities such as food, and a sales tax adds to this burden. Samuels said a fuel tax would be a much fairer way to fund roads because it shifts all of the road maintenance burden onto drivers.

If voters approve Proposition 1, the sales tax would remain in effect through 2028.

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