Taxes

Members of the public got a chance to review and discuss potential capital improvement sales tax projects.

At city hall Monday night, informational posters were displayed and city department heads were on hand to answer questions and explain projects that could be funded if voters approve the city’s half-cent capital improvement sales tax in April 2018.

The tax expires in 2018 and voters will have a chance to vote on an extension in the April municipal election. If voters agree to extend the tax for another eight years, it could generate between $12.6 million and $15.1 million to spend on capital projects.

City Administrator Darren Lamb said 14 people signed in at Monday’s forum. Combined with the more than 200 people who have filled out an online survey, he said he was pleased with the public input so far.

Lamb said the survey, forum and coverage in The Missourian has reached a number of people — far more than the previous efforts. The last time the tax was up for a vote, the city got responses from fewer than 40 people.

“I don’t know how much more we can do,” he said.

Lamb said based on the survey responses and Monday’s forum, voters are less concerned with the idea of the sales tax and more interested in what projects will be funded.

“All the comments we’ve had, so far, have been what’s the best usage,” he said.

Lamb said the early support for the tax is a good sign for the city.

“With the budget, it’s crucial we have this tax,” he said. “Otherwise there’s a lot of other things — we’d have to take a serious look at a lot of services we provide.”

As of Monday’s forum, 24 projects have been pitched to the sales tax committee with a total estimated cost of $12,585,200.

The committee has already sent a recommendation to the council that the projects proposed are worthy of the tax extension. The council is slated to vote Monday, Dec. 4, on an ordinance to put the extension on the ballot for the April election.

In the meantime, the committee will continue to review projects. Since the project costs likely will be more than the revenue generated by the tax, the committee will have to make some cuts and select the best projects.

Based on public response, Lamb said it looks like an aquatics complex, which hasn’t been formally presented to the committee, may be the top issue.

“Right now we’re looking to see if we could take care of that right off the bat,” he said. “Right now, I think, that would be our first priority, but we got a lot to filter through.”

Lamb said he hopes the list is pared down by the end of 2017.

“My goal is by the end of December to hopefully have a good idea of what we’d like to do,” Lamb said.

Once that list is set, Lamb said the city can’t advocate for the tax so any promotion or attempts to drum up support will have to be done by an outside group.