The citizens of Grimes will soon have the opportunity to decide whether or not to increase the sales tax levy for qualified purchases in Grimes. If the vote is in favor, the sales tax in Grimes will increase from 6 percent to 7 percent. This topic is important and difficult for an organization like GCED, because we are a membership organization that represents over 300 local businesses and organizations. It is the business community that would be responsible for implementing the increase.
For this issue, we asked our governing Board of Directors for some direction on whether or not this is an initiative that would ultimately benefit our membership or do harm. After analyzing the best information available, the Board unanimously decided to support passage of the increase for the following reasons:
The GCED membership is overwhelmingly comprised of businesses. As such, one of the most prominent fixed overhead costs for our membership is property taxes. By state law, 50 percent of the new sales tax revenue must go toward property tax relief.
The Grimes City Council has taken this a step further by indicating that it will use that 50 percent specifically for a property tax reduction. This is a promise that the City tax levy will be decreased, as opposed to just saying that they will not raise their levy. • Per our Business Retention & Expansion (BRE) program, we have the opportunity to visit with a lot of businesses and discuss opportunities and obstacles that they see in their daily business operations.
The number one issue, by far, is the ability to attract and retain qualified applicants for available positions. Whereas quality of life markers used to have a separate place in community development considerations, they are now considered a priority for workforce development and attraction. If someone is presented with multiple job opportunities, more weight is given to the quality of the community as a whole than in the past.
It is anticipated that 50 percent of the funds generated through the additional one percent sales tax increase will be used for projects that will address quality of life markers (i.e. libraries, fire protection, park and recreational trail expansions/connections). We believe that these types of projects will not only be appreciated by the people and businesses that already call Grimes home, but it will also help our local businesses to better attract quality work candidates to the community.
We want people to spend their hard-earned money in Grimes. Shop local is a longstanding mantra of chambers of commerce organizations from around the world. However, we also know that, because Grimes is part of a much larger vibrant metropolitan area, a lot of people choose to spend their money at locations throughout central Iowa.
While the percentage of household income expended at Grimes businesses vs. those businesses outside of Grimes surely varies by household, it would be dishonest to believe that a high percentage of commercial goods and services are already being purchased in communities that have already implemented the increased sales tax.
While we don’t advocate following the crowd just for the sake of doing so, it is impossible to properly assess this issue without noting that more than 95 percent of communities in Iowa have already implemented LOSST in their communities, including Des Moines, West Des Moines, Altoona, Windsor Heights, Pleasant Hill, Alleman, Polk City and all of Dallas County.
Sales tax revenues are paid not only by citizens of our community, but by anyone who visits and engages in commerce. That means other residents of Polk County and visitors from outside the area would pay this tax at retail establishments. Because Polk County draws so many visitors from surrounding areas of the state and beyond, other people’s purchases would support our property tax relief and community projects. These are a few of the reasons why Grimes Chamber & Economic Development encourages Grimes voters to vote yes on Aug. 6 for the imposition of a new 1 percent Local Options Sales and Service Tax for our community.
by Brian Buethe, president | CEO, Grimes Chamber & Economic Development.