Stockton — Muscatine County's results on the vote for local option sales and service tax came in at 9:31 p.m. March 6. All the groups that asked to have a referendum said 'yes' to the tax — everyone but Stockton.
After both precincts were counted, zero people in Stockton voted 'yes.' Zero people voted 'no.' Not a single ballot was cast despite having had a Nov. 30, 2017, special meeting called just to get it on the ballot.
"I’m pretty upset about it," said Stockton Mayor Patrick Baker. "I didn’t hear about it until I opened up a link on Facebook. I wasn’t even aware that the City of Stockton had to vote."
He explained that when city council called the special meeting to get it on the ballot, they thought that the county's votes would be aggregated for the referendum, not incorporation by incorporation.
"We were under the impression that however the county votes, that is the way we have to abide by," Baker said.
The city of about 200 residents has used the tax to raise as much as $20,000 in FY 2015. Facing the loss of that revenue, the mayor said he feels like he should have been better informed.
"I could accept the fact if we were misinformed, but I cannot accept it by the fact that we were not informed," Baker said.
After being informed Stockton would not be receiving the additional revenue from the local option sales tax, Baker talked with Chairman of the Muscatine Board of Supervisors Scott Sauer and Auditor and Election Commissioner Leslie Soule. They explained that Stockton had been emailed twice about the election: once on Dec. 15, 2017, and again on Jan. 2, 2018. Both were sent to the city email run by the city clerk.
"They were mistaken in thinking that whatever Muscatine County was going to do was what they were going to do — that they just didn’t have to vote," Sauer said. "I’m not sure where this is going to go from this point. Or if there is anything they can do on their behalf."
Stockton's City Clerk Cathy Jepsen could not be reached by press time.
Baker said the failure was not the clerk's part, as Jepsen was barely a few months into the job.
"She is going through a learning process," Baker said. "It’s not fair to blame her."
He said that such communications should be sent to more than one person.
"There are several communication links that were broken," Baker said. "Everybody has a cellphone. Everybody has a smartphone. There should be something a week before that every city official should have notice of every vote and meeting. We should be made aware of it."
Baker said that he is willing to do whatever he can to give the City of Stockton another chance to say 'yes' to the local option sales tax.
"We’ll have to have a special meeting or discuss it at the next council meeting," Baker said. "I’m hoping it can be put on the ballot again because I just don’t think it is fair for us to have to wait another 10 years because we were misinformed — whether through our own fault or the county."
Baker said both he and the city council that unanimously voted to have it placed on the ballot would vote in favor of the local option sales tax. But even then, having missed the initial vote, Scott Sauer said that he wasn't sure whether there was recourse.
"That’s going to be a question," Sauer said. "I don’t know what the procedure is or what that procedure would be. Or will they just have to live with this error."