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Mixed Emotions in Des Moines After Sales Tax Increase Fails

DES MOINES, Iowa -- A penny has never felt so large. "It is obviously disappointing and frustrating. City Council member Josh Mandelbaum believes the failure of the one cent sales tax increase in Polk county was a crushing defeat for the city of Des Moines. "That would have allowed us to fund projects we have identified in our capital infrastructure program that we identified we need to do in the next five years."

Despite gaining fifty-four percent approval in Des Moines, council members will now look at ways to make up the thirty-seven million dollars the tax was estimated to generate in year one. It starts with property taxes. Mandelbaum said, "Up to a twenty cent property tax increase on a thousand dollar valuation."

Realtor.com lists the median Des Moines home sold at $125,000. That would be an additional $25 in property taxes a year. "That obviously has an impact. We know there are challenges with that,"said Mandelbaum.

Flipping a penny can provide an alternate view. One that opponents of the proposed tax say that if passed would have been equally crushing for a community often overlooked. "It may not seem a lot to some people but every cent adds up. A lot of times you see folks on a fixed income or an hourly wage that pays lower and they are going to see that tax every time they go to the register because they cannot afford to buy bulk. I don't think that is fair," said Ashley Parker, a Des Moines social worker.

Mandelbaum says the impact will now be felt on everyone no matter their economic status. "Investments in our roads, investments in our neighborhoods, investments in public safety. We are not going to have the resources to make those investments now," he said.

Complicated budget decisions loom for council members. "We are going to have to make a lot of difficult decisions that will require votes on property tax increases and service cuts," said Mandelbaum.

While elected officials continue their search for dollars, residents like Ashley hope a new plan makes sense. "I hope they can be creative and I have every bit of faith in the smart people we have elected that they can find a solution that can work for everybody," she said.

The Des Moines City Council will meet Thursday at 7:30 am.