Washington City Council Chambers

The rough draft of potential capital projects for the next eight years carries a price tag more than double the predicted revenue of the capital improvement sales tax.

During the first meeting of the capital improvement sales tax committee, City Administrator Darren Lamb said projected revenues, if the sale tax is continued, could generate an estimated $12 million for the city in eight years.

However, city departments have requested funds north of $24 million for various projects.

The newly formed committee met Tuesday to review the history of the capital improvement sales tax and discuss its future. The city has had a half-cent sales tax since 1989 for capital projects.

Past projects included construction of the library, public safety building and multiple firehouses.

Potential Revenue

Lamb provided the committee with projected revenue numbers generated by the sales tax if it’s approved for another eight years.

Lamb said the numbers are preliminary and the estimate will be sharpened as time moves forward.

From 2010-18, the tax generated proceeds of $16,001,528. The projections for the next eight years have the tax generating an estimated $12,600,000.

That number was reached by projecting saving $1 million in a reserve fund and using an estimated $2.5 million for debt service.

The debt service funds are used if the city issues bonds for the projects. Lamb said the last time voters approved the tax, in 2010, the city opted to issue bonds for the projects.

Lamb said the bond market is favorable and after the economic downturn in 2008, construction costs were low. To capitalize, the city issued bonds for the entire projected amount and has been paying them off.

By using bonds, the city was able to get projects started faster and have guaranteed prices. When the public safety building was built in 2006, the cost of the project doubled between conception and construction.

Committee member Kurt Voss said he doesn’t favor a bond project. He said the capital sales tax generates about $2 million annually so spending a year of revenue on debt services didn’t seem like good sense.

Other members agreed and said the city would be able to get more projects done by not issuing bonds.

The board took no formal vote on bonding and said it would continue the discussion at future meetings.

Projects

Future projects are still to be determined. The tax expires in 2018 and the city will have to ask voters for an eight-year extension.

If voters approve an extension, the city has a lengthy list of potential projects to consider.

Lamb said Tuesday department heads have sent preliminary lists of projects to consider. All project costs are estimated ballpark figures just to give the committee some idea of what the work could cost.

The city’s parks and recreation department has traditionally been a big benefactor from the sales tax. Because it doesn’t have a big revenue source, many parks projects are funded through the sales tax.

The parks department compiled more than 10 projects that total an estimated $12.7 million. Eight other city departments requested projects totaling an estimated $12.2 million.

Projects included in the list are new storm alert sirens, new radios for the police and fire departments, and a new fire station and water tower for the southeastern part of town.

For the parks, the list includes money for renovations for Ronsick Field, Phase II of the skate park, roofing repairs and a new maintenance building. The biggest ticket item was a new pool.

Closing the pool in the future was discussed at a recent park board meeting. The pool is aging and needs to be either renovated, replaced or closed.

Lamb said he pegged a replacement pool at somewhere around $5 million, but cautioned it could change with more investigation.

Parks and Recreation Director Darren Dunkle said that cost could double with more features.

Committee member Diane Jones said she didn’t think it would be a good idea to spend that much money on something open two months a year. She said she would support an indoor facility that is open 12 months a year.

Dunkle said a rec center recently opened in Maryland Heights cost $30 million. Committee members said a large pool/rec center project would probably be better suited for a single-issue bond instead of the capital improvement sales tax.

No other projects garnered much of a discussion. The committee agreed the city’s department heads needed to refine their list.

Committee member Gretchen Pettet said it would help if the lists included what was truly needed and what were wish list items.

The committee agreed to meet for the next several Tuesdays to fine-tune the projects list and make cuts. Meetings will be at 1 p.m. in the council chambers.