Salem, Mo., to ask voters to approve new tax, bond measure in April

Published: Feb. 14, 2023 at 8:42 PM CST
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SALEM, Mo. (KY3) - In just a few weeks voters will once again head to the polls.

For people in Salem that means deciding to raise taxes and fund a major city project.

“Another penny? It’s too much. Maybe we need to manage things a little better,” said Jim Halbrook.

He has lived in Salem all his life. He says things have changed drastically over time.

“I walk around town quite a bit. There are a lot of vacant houses, a lot of vacant buildings. Businesses are empty. Things could be better,” explains Halbrook.

Officials are asking the voters to approve a city sales tax increase.

“We are at a point in our city that if we don’t determine other ways to put our budget together, other revenue sources, that we will have to start cutting services,” said Salem City Administrator Sally Burbridge.

For every dollar spent an additional penny will be collected. This will increase the city’s revenue stream. That increase could mean cost savings.

“We’re hoping that by funding the general fund correctly, with this additional sales tax increase, then we don’t have to pull as much from our electric and other utilities. That will help us to stabilize and hopefully lower those utility rates moving forward,” said Burbridge.

A second ballot initiative for voter consideration is a bond measure. That money will fund improvements to the city’s wastewater treatment plant.

“Rates are going to have to go up either way. We don’t have a choice. These are federally mandated updates we have to do on our treatment plant. We’re asking the public to come to help us decide,” said Burbridge.

Voters will be asked to approve a $1.8 million bond to cover the project costs of $4.6 million. This would hike sewer rates up at least $3 a month depending on the household. If the bond is rejected the city will have to raise rates by at least $14 monthly to fund the upgrades.

City leaders will hold a town hall meeting to appeal to voters.

“Listen to the presentations and then make up your mind after you heard our case. I think it will be very clear why we’re doing this and what we need to do to move our community forward,” said Burbridge.

Halbrook says he’s skeptical.

“Here I feel like things are regressing rather than moving forward,” he said.

The public meeting is scheduled for February 21 from 5 pm to 7 pm at the old city hall auditorium.

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