‘Smart money’ is on tax increase

Published 1:00 pm Wednesday, March 22, 2017

It an unscientific poll on The Daily Leader website, 85 percent of voters said they would rather have an increase in the fuel tax rather than an increase in their property taxes.

That’s not surprising, since most people see the logic in increasing a tax that directly benefits them. Raising the fuel tax would generate much-needed revenue for road and bridge improvements.

Increasing property taxes would affect all property owners in Lincoln County, including those who don’t drive much or at all. But it wouldn’t affect out-of-county travelers and those who don’t own property yet drive the county’s roadways.

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That’s logic that most people can get on board with. But an increase in the fuel tax won’t happen this legislative session. And though the Legislature is taking some steps to increase infrastructure spending, it won’t be enough to adequately repair and maintain the many failing roads and bridges in the state.

So what’s a county Board of Supervisors to do when it needs more money to take care of roads and bridges? The only option is to raise property taxes, which local supervisors have said they are opposed to doing.

But the money isn’t going to magically fall from the sky. If the county doesn’t currently have enough funds to adequately maintain infrastructure, there’s only one way to get it — more tax revenue.

Until that happens, one supervisor is trying to get more support for his low-cost bridge replacement plan. Nolan Williamson says he can replace failing bridges much cheaper than the state by simply purchasing a complete bridge and installing it where it’s needed.

He pointed out a recent example: He replaced an old timber bridge on Marwood Road at a cost of $43,600. Williamson said using state funding to build a bridge at the same location would have cost more than $100,000. His way is also much faster, he said. He calls it using “smart money.”

Williamson may be on to something, but it’s unlikely to be a long-term solution in every district across the state.

Infrastructure funding must be a priority for Mississippi. If the state refuses to make it so, counties will be forced to make it a priority the only way they can — with a property tax increase.