Kennett must now help itself, chamber official says

Saturday, February 22, 2003

Daily Dunklin Democrat

KENNETT, Mo. -- After helping other communities, Kennett must now help itself, a Kennett Chamber of Commerce official told those who turned out for a public meeting on a proposed city sales tax increase and bond issue on Thursday.

Jan McElwrath, executive director of the chamber, was referring to residents who shop in nearby communities and contribute to the sales tax revenue of those communities.

At issue in Kennett is a proposition to increase the city's seven-eighths-cent sales tax by a quarter of a cent and a $2.8 million bond issue to fund acquisition of land and development of an industrial park in the city. The proposals will be on the April 8 ballot.

The current industrial park is nearly at capacity.

McElwrath said the economic development committees of the chamber and city council had agreed to submit the propositions to voters after the city was unable to retain a firm that employed 150 people.

The Wise Company had moved into a Kennett building after fire destroyed its plant in Rector, Ark. It decided to return to Rector when that city was able to offer a more favorable economic package.

If approved, the tax would add 2 1/2 cents on each $10 of purchases. It would not apply to purchases already exempted from the tax.

The bond issue "would allow the city to get money at once and start the project. Interest costs would be lower than if the city borrowed the money," McElwrath said.

She said the cost of repaying the bonds has been estimated at about $186,376 a year.

Based on sales tax receipts last year, McElwrath said the sales tax would raise around $350,000 in revenue a year.

While touted as an economic development projects, owing to state law governing cities such as Kennett, the tax and bond issue must appear on the ballot as being for capital improvement projects.

However, the money will be used for economic development projects in the city.

"This is not a willy-nilly type thing. This money must be used for a very specific purpose. That purpose is progress, that purpose is jobs," said McElwrath. "If we do not do something to provide employment, the city is standing still. We lost 150 jobs because the city did not own a facility for the Wise Company. We had an offer Wise would have accepted had we owned that building."

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