Alton asks voters for approval to spend sales tax on street maintenance
The city of Alton wants voters to approve a sales tax swap in May.
Under the proposal, Alton would shift a half-cent of city sales tax — about $500,000 a year — from industrial development initiatives to street maintenance.
“I say it would be an excellent idea,” said Mayor Salvador Vela. “Because we do need the infrastructure.”
Vela said people frequently call him with complaints about potholes. While patching streets is easy, actually fixing them can be very expensive.
Paying for street maintenance with a sales tax instead of a property tax would shift the burden from Alton residents to anyone who shops within city limits.
“It’s almost the same as the gasoline tax that the highway department uses solely for highway construction,” Vela said.
Alton collects a 2% sales tax, which adds 2 cents to the bill for every dollar spent within city limits.
One cent is allocated to the city, which spends the money on government services. A half-cent is allocated to the Alton Development Corp., which is focused on industrial development. And the remaining half-cent is allocated to the Alton Community Development Corp., which is focused on parks, sports fields and other quality-of-life projects.
Alton started collecting sales tax for the development corporations in 1996, according to information published by the Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts.
The City Commission wants voters to approve a proposition that would transfer a half-cent from the Alton Development Corp. to a new account dedicated to street maintenance.
Alton could spend the money “only to maintain and repair municipal streets or sidewalks existing on the date of the election to adopt the tax,” according to the Texas Tax Code.
Escobares also uses sales tax to pay for street maintenance, according to information published by the Comptroller of Public Accounts. Progreso stopped collecting a sales tax for street maintenance in 2011.
Voters must approve the collection of a sales tax for street maintenance and, in most circumstances, re-approve the tax every four years.
“It’s always tough to get people to come out and vote on these things, but if they want to see those major improvements on the roads here, which we know we need, this is the best way to do that,” said City Manager Jeff Underwood.
Members of the City Commission started discussing the switch in 2021, Underwood said, after they concluded Alton could fund industrial development in other ways. The half-cent allocated to the Alton Development Corp., meanwhile, could be spent on city streets.
Alton could spend the half-cent sales tax on a pay-as-you-go basis or borrow against future sales tax allocations to fund major projects.
“And it doesn’t raise your property taxes whatsoever,” Underwood said.
Early voting starts on April 24 and ends May 2. Election day is May 6.
Great idea. Might be a good idea to raise tax to 2 cents for four years and get some 4 lane roads built in high traffic areas