West Des Moines Leading the Way for Polk County Local Option Sales Tax

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WEST DES MOINES, Iowa  --  On Monday, the West Des Moines City Council voted for a one cent local option sales tax to be placed on the March ballot; but they need city councils representing at least 50% of Polk County's population to also support the idea.

City councils like Des Moines are expected to take this issue up in early December. With Dallas County's local option sales tax going into effect in July, West Des Moines finds itself in an interesting situation.

“The sales tax at Jordan Creek Mall will be a penny higher than Valley West Mall. What we don't want to do is have an uneven competitive field for our businesses,” said West Des Moines’ mayor Steve Gaer.

With West Des Moines being in four counties, the city council says it wants to make sure everyone would be paying the same tax, for the sake of fairness and for an added revenue stream to improve quality of life.

“Like an amphitheater on the city school campus, we're looking at an additional bridge across the Raccoon River to the bike trails, we've got a boathouse we'd like to build at Raccoon River Park, we've got a marathon loop that we'd like to connect together...it's just a lot of outdoor high-quality of life issues that we're struggling to find a way to finance them all,” said Gaer.

Some West Des Moines business owners aren't as keen to see taxes go up, saying they're struggling to find ways to stay open.

“It didn't get any better after November, November was flat, even December was flat. Then we had bad weather in January...it's tough,” said Mary Jane Long.

Long has owned of Eye Beads and Gemstones in Valley Junction for 15 years and worries that added tax would reduce foot traffic and promote online shopping.

“Right now is not the time to do it. The economy is not back and it's just going to hurt small business. We are still suffering. I may not make 16 years, I’d go do something else,” said Long.

Gaer says businesses could make it up.  He says if this tax were to go through, half of the revenue would be used to decrease property taxes.

“Right now in Dallas County we're going to reduce property taxes by 21 cents, if it passed in Polk County we're going to reduce it by another 50 cents. So we're looking at a six to an eight percent reduction in property taxes, which is really a meaningful number for our businesses,” said Gaer.

Gaer says West Des Moines can expect $7 million a year in revenue should the tax pass.