Vehicle sticker or sales tax? Marengo will ask voters for sales tax, will drop stickers if it passes

The referendum would add a 1% tax on local sales if successful

Marengo city hall and police department is photographed on Thursday, Aug. 6, 2020, in Marengo.

Vehicle stickers might be a thing of the past in Marengo, depending on the results of a March referendum.

The city voted Monday night to put a 1% local sales tax referendum on the primary election ballot in March. If approved by voters, the tax would be the only local sales tax in the city.

Currently, shoppers pay 7% sales tax in Marengo, said City Administrator Laura Williamson.

The city also stipulated that the revenue from the sales tax would go to improving infrastructure like roads and sidewalks.

Williamson said the city is behind on maintenance on roads and sidewalks, and Marengo’s pavement condition index has dropped over the last two years.

PCI is a measure of the condition of a roadway. It goes from zero to 100, with 100 being the best.

The city’s roads had an overall score of 41 in 2021, placing it in the “poor” category on the index. The score is now 35, making it “very poor” on the scale.

“I don’t think we have a choice,” Alderman Michael Miller said of seeking the local sales tax, adding he recognized it might be unpopular.

If the referendum is successful, the city will repeal its vehicle sticker tax. Currently, vehicles in Marengo need to have the city sticker if they’re registered within city limits, and work vehicles in the city that are there for more than 30 days also need to purchase the sticker. It’s a $150 fine if residents are caught not displaying the sticker. Vehicle stickers are generally $20 or $5 for seniors.

Enforcement of the stickers happens during the course of day-to-day policing duties, Williamson said.

“We’re throwing dollars to catch pennies,” Alderman Nicole DeBoer said during the meeting.