South Fork Town Board OKs adding sales tax increase measure to ballot

SOUTH FORK — The South Fork Board of Trustees approved putting a sales tax increase measure on the April ballot at its meeting on Jan. 23.

Town attorney Gene Farish opened a public hearing to consider a sales tax increase to fund additional town employees and capital improvement projects throughout the South Fork area.

“This is a matter that will go before the voters in April. Generally, it is a 2 percent increase to the sales tax. This is for the purpose of funding capital improvement projects and to fund more town employees,” said Farish.

Town Manager Hank Weber explained the purpose of the hearing and welcomed everyone who came to share their thoughts on the potential sales tax increase.

“What I would like to do to start the hearing is to explain what the town’s needs are and why we need them,” Weber said. “For the past two years, the town has been discussing the fact that the revenue that is coming in is going right back out. We support our town, basically on sales tax.”

Weber said the sales tax collected each year covers everything from capital improvement projects, equipment purchase, operating and maintenance, and town staff salaries, Weber said.

“We have had difficulty hiring and maintaining employees because our salary ranges are not competitive and our turnover shows that,” Weber said.

The Town of South Fork was incorporated in the early 90s and at that time, the board of trustees chose to forgo property tax in the area based on what the voters wanted at the time and sales tax revenue is the only main source of income for the town which is used for operating costs.

Weber continued to explain the need for the sales tax increase by addressing the need for road improvements throughout town and that by increasing the sales tax, it ensures that anyone who comes to South Fork helps with the need for funding without putting the increase solely on the residents who reside there full-time.

While researching whether a sales tax increase would be beneficial, the board discovered that a 2 percent increase would accumulate roughly $1.2 million more per year based on historical data, Weber said. This rough estimate could be higher or lower depending on the trends in spending throughout the year.

After Weber finished, the public spoke on the topic beginning with resident and business owner Ashlee Bratton.

“The board has been working really, really hard to get this increase so that it can go back to the people, improve the roads and also for the town park project. This will be a key piece for the GOCO grant to show that we are putting funds in place to maintain it in the future,” Bratton said.

Other members of the public spoke in favor of the increase stating that the town was in fact on the precipice of change and that improvements need to be made to ensure that it continues its upward trend.

Some residents spoke about support for both an increase in sales tax as well as the need to consider adding property tax. By the end of the meeting, the town board voted to put the issue on the April 2024 ballot for voters to decide.