Ephrata to pursue sales tax rise for road maintenance

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EPHRATA — The Ephrata City Council has begun the process of creating a transportation benefit district (TBD) for the city after agreeing that a two-tenths percent citywide sales tax would be the best way to fund needed street maintenance.

At a regular meeting on Tuesday, council members were nearly unanimous in support of a dedicated raise in the city’s sales tax as opposed to a $20 car tab to fund road improvements, saying that a sales tax will also allow non-residents to contribute to street maintenance.

“With a sales tax, areas around the city will pay that are not covered by the car tax,” said council member William Coe.

However, council member Matt Moore wanted to make sure the council would support a measure that would pass with city voters.

“This is not something that will negatively affect business, but it falls more on the business community,” Moore said, adding that it was one more thing business owners would have take care of, along with the rising minimum wage and increased health insurance costs.

“Personally, I’m for car tabs,” Moore said.

Ephrata, like a number of cities in Grant and Adams counties, is looking to create a TBD to make up for the lack of a state support for city road maintenance. Last winter was especially hard, and Ephrata struggled to fill potholes and repair streets damaged by the long, cold winter.

According to City Administrator Wes Crago, Ephrata needs an estimated $200,000 each year simply to keep its roads repaired.

“A sales tax brings in more money and spreads out the burden,” Crago said. “But car tabs, cars cause road damage, so cars pay for road damage.”

Currently, Ephrata residents pay 8 percent sales tax, including a one-tenth of a percent tax dedicated to fund city police.

The council instructed Crago and his staff to draft a resolution creating a TBD and the dedicated sales tax, which will go before city voters for their approval at a special election on April 24, 2018.

Charles H. Featherstone can be reached via email at countygvt@columbiabasinherald.com.

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