Des Moines Considers Local Option Sales Tax

DES MOINES, Iowa -- Business owner Tiffani Darner and her husband have relied upon support from the community in order to be successful, and that's why Hank's Fuzzy Guitars and Furniture has stood the test of time in the East Village.

And if a one cent sales tax increase would help support the community in return, Darner would be for that.

"The funds could be used to better the community, the parks and what-not," said Darner. "It`s a small increase, so I don`t think it would hurt shoppers all that much."

Jan Morgan, who lives in Ankeny but often shops in Des Moines, says a one cent sales tax increase wouldn't hurt too bad, but don't ask for a penny more.

"Any more above, probably, but one-cent wouldn`t be too threatening as far as that goes," said Morgan. "Yeah, to help the community thrive and make Des Moines even more progressive, that would help, sure."

The city is currently awaiting feedback from a phone survey to find out how residents feel about the idea, and how residents would want the money generated from the tax to be spent.

City Manager Scott Sanders said "The main purpose for the survey was to gather information about what the citizens of Des Moines desire in their community. Given that many communities have discussed a local option sales tax, information is needed for the City and the City Council to respond to that discussion. For example, there may be an interest in improving roads and public infrastructure, enhancing public safety, and revitalizing our neighborhoods."

Joe Murphy, Senior Vice President of Government Relations & Public Policy for the Greater Des Moines Partnership, thinks the survey is a good idea. "We think that gathering that information to see what`s viable, what`s not viable, is something that`s really important as you go into a possible campaign, and as the City talks about, you know, that revenue would go towards some really important things that the City cares about."

Murphy says the Partnership views goals such as improving roads and public infrastructure, enhancing public safety, and revitalizing neighborhoods, as a catalyst for community development.

"I think when you look holistically at the system as we have right now, as revenues and dollars become more scarce for everybody, I think it`s important for cities to look at all of these different activities that they can undertake to provide more resources," said Murphy.

As for when the city will know how its citizens feel about the idea, Sanders said the results would be in no later than November.

And as far as when the tax might be voted upon, Sanders said: "With narrowing resources, the city remains open to many options for delivering services. Regardless of any survey results or desire to call a referendum, if the majority of the other cities in Polk County decide they want to call a referendum, then the Des Moines' citizens would be required to vote. There is varied interest around the metro area for a potential 2018 vote."

The way the law is currently set up, in order for Des Moines to enact a sales tax increase, the issue would have to be approved by voters across the metro area. Polk County is one of only a few counties in Iowa that does not already have ave a local option sales tax in place.