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June 11, 2009

Road Rock Tax, CAFO’s Headline August Special Election Ballot

August isn’t traditionally a time that county residents plan to flock to the polls, but a pair of ballot issues posed for the special election August 4th may change that in 2009.

Scotland County voters will be asked to approve a ballot proposition that will raise the special road rock tax from $0.25 per agriculture acre up to $1.00. The ballot issue, if approved, would authorize the county to impose a tax of up to $1.00 per acre on all ground classified as agricultural or horticultural with all proceeds to be placed in the special road rock fund.

The tax, which was first collected back in 2000, currently generates between $60,000 and $70,000 annually. If approved, the new rate would create an influx of an estimated $180,000 to help resurface county roads.

“A combination of terrible weather conditions and worsening financial restraints have left our roads in bad shape,” said Commissioner Paul Campbell. “Since I’ve been in office, I’ve seen the price of road rock double. It was $4.00 a ton when I came on and now it is $8.40 to $8.60.”

Add to the equation back-to-back years of extremely poor weather, and the county’s roads are in need of attention.

The county did receive financial aid through FEMA for repairs of some of the storm ravaged roads, but the commission pointed out this funding was limited to certain areas hit hardest by the storms.

To illustrate the need for the tax, the county highlighted the 2008 budget year. Scotland County spent $72,361.70 on gravel from the special road rock fund. The county infused $261,575.51 from the road and bridge fund to purchase additional rock for the roads.

That funding allowed for 40,000 tons of gravel to be installed on the county’s 500+ miles of roads. If approved, the tax would allow roughly 20,000 tons of additional gravel to be placed on county roads annually.

“If we build the roads back up over the next five years, the county commission would have the option of rolling back the gravel tax to a lower rate,” said Commissioner Deny Clatt.

Campbell noted that the tax levy is similar to the school district’s Prop C waiver in that way. It would allow the county to levy up to $1.00 but would also allow a lower rate to be levied if the county deemed it feasible.

The gravel tax is only paid on acerage classified as agricultural by the county assessor’s office. Residential and commercial property would not be subject to the tax.

The second issue on the ballot is a referendum of sorts.

The county commission poses the question:

“Should the Scotland County Commission adopt a county health ordinance regulating Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFO) as permitted under state law?”

The ballot issue is a simple request seeking the advisory opinion of county voters in this ballot question.

Clatt noted there had been plenty of public debate regarding the issue, and this ballot issue could finally put the question to rest one way or the other.

“This basically allows us to do what the majority of county residents want us to do,” he said. “This is their opportunity to give us direction.”

Campbell stated that if the county voted down the idea of a health ordinance, no action would be required on the county’s part since it had recently repealed the county health ordinance.

If voters are in favor of a health ordinance, the county will enact a health ordinance that will be constructed by the commission.

County Clerk Betty Lodewegen noted the last date to register to vote for the August 4th election will be July 8th.


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