Citizens discuss street maintenance tax in town hall meeting Thursday

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by A.C. Hall

On Thursday the City of Lake Worth held a town hall meeting to give citizens information and allow them to ask questions about the upcoming vote on the street maintenance tax.  In place since 2004, this tax collects .25 of 1% of sales tax and puts it into a fund that is used to repair and maintain streets within the City.  The tax requires a new vote every few years and is back on the Lake Worth ballots this year.  
Lake Worth’s Mayor and most of the City Council were in attendance, but Director of Public Works Sean Densmore ran the town hall meeting.  Giving background info on the tax, Densmore stated that one of the restrictions on the fund is that it can’t be used to do any work on streets that were built after 2004.  He also reminded the twenty to thirty people in attendance that this tax is tied to sales tax, not property tax, and has no effect at all on the property tax.  The majority of sales tax generated in Lake Worth comes from non-residents who shop there but live elsewhere, Densmore said.
The projected amount of money the tax will raise for street repair and maintenance in the coming year is right around $945,000.  The City has paved 2.5 million square feet of streets using the street maintenance tax fund since it began, Densmore said.
A graphic was shown to represent how the City decides what roads to address with the fund.  They look at several factors starting with the condition of the road as well as if it’s scheduled to be torn up for sewer or infrastructure work at any time in the near future.
Moving on to the question and answer portion of the meeting, both Densmore and City Manager Brett McGuire fielded questions.  One citizen addressed the dangers of street parking on roads with major elevation changes.  They also asked what happens to the tax on gasoline that’s supposed to be used for infrastructure, wondering if it couldn’t be used locally.  “We don’t receive any of that unless it’s through a grant,” Densmore said.
McGuire also addressed the question, saying that most of that money goes to the State, not to local governments.  He said that money gets spent by organizations like the Texas Department of Transportation on things like state highways.
Another citizen question was directed at damage done to curbs by the gas company.  They asked about how repairs on this type of damage are handled.  Densmore told the citizen that they do work on things like curbs throughout the year.  McGuire added that they have to stick to the restrictions on the street maintenance tax fund, and can’t use that money for any curbs that were built after 2004.  In those cases, he stated that they have to use money out of their regular budget for the repairs.
One final question was about the spending breakdown of the street maintenance tax fund.  The citizen asked about a portion of the money that was shown as going into reserves.
“We’re kind of conservative,” Densmore said.  “We don’t want to spend everything we have in case things come up.”
The re-authorization of this tax will appear on the November 3 ballot.  Early voting for that election is underway now.