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Advisory boards outline proposed tax

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

A proposed half-cent sales tax could fund an estimated $36.9 million in parks and storm-water projects in the city of Cape Girardeau, members of the parks and golf course advisory boards told the city council Monday night.

But park board member Danny Essner cautioned that even with the tax it would take years to do all of the projects.

The list includes 10 major parks projects:

* $6 million for a water park -- possibly at Osage Park -- and replacement of Capaha Pool with a water spray area.

* $5.9 million to renovate the Central Municipal Pool bath house and replace the air-supported bubble roof with a permanent enclosure.

* $5.58 million for general parks improvement and acquisition of future park land.

* $4 million for improvements to the Osage Community Centre, including an expanded fitness room, more meeting rooms, locker and shower facilities, more storage and added parking.

* $3.5 million for improvements to the Shawnee Park sports complex, including new soccer and softball fields, and construction of a youth tackle football field and a new rest room/concession facility.

* $2.25 million for the municipal golf course improvements, including an expanded pro shop, rebuilding of the greens and replacement of the leaking irrigation system.

* $1.39 million for major renovations to the 68-year-old A.C. Brase Arena Building, including replacement of a leaky roof and air conditioning and heating systems, electrical upgrades, and storage, office and meeting room additions.

* $1.1 million for improvements to Arena Park and Capaha Park youth athletic fields.

* $1 million for expansion of the walking trails as well as the addition of lighting and restrooms along the trail system.

* $721,000 for a new restroom/locker/concession/storage building and a new maintenance shed for Capaha Field.

The major parks projects total $36.9 million. The city has identified more than $5 million worth of needed storm-water projects that would also be funded by the proposed tax.

In addition, the spending plan includes $3.3 million to purchase parks vehicles and equipment, and $1.2 million to help pay operational costs for parks and recreation and storm-water services.

About 40 members of the parks and golf boards, as well as five members of the city council and several city staff members attended the meeting held at the Osage Community Centre.

It's envisioned that the family aquatic center would be constructed at Osage Park. But Mayor Jay Knudtson wondered if it might not be better to locate the water park at the new Interstate 55 interchange being constructed in Cape Girardeau County.

That could make it a regional attraction, he said.

Some business leaders have talked of developing a soccer complex and a minor league ballpark at that location, the mayor said. A water park could be a good fit with such attractions, he told the advisory boards.

Knudtson questioned if the council could ask voters to approve a tax measure without knowing where the water park would be built.

The mayor said some council members have expressed concern about eliminating a swimming pool at Capaha Park.

The parks and golf course boards recommended that 3/8 of the proposed tax be earmarked for capital projects and 1/8 of a cent be budgeted for operational expenses.

Essner said the tax would generate an estimated $3 million annually for parks and storm-water capital projects and $1 million annually for operational expenses.

The advisory boards suggested that the council consider asking voters to approve a permanent tax rather than have it expire after a certain number of years.

Essner said the city currently doesn't have enough tax money to adequately maintain the existing parks and golf course. "Right now, we are playing catch up," he told the council.

Knudtson said the council would have to act by August to get the issue on the November ballot. The council is expected to discuss the issue at its regular meeting next week.

Both he and Councilwoman Loretta Schneider suggested that the council will have to clearly define how the money would be spent and prioritize the projects in an effort to secure voter approval.

Essner suggested the city consider issuing $25 million in revenue bonds that could be paid off over 10 years with proceeds from the sales tax.

But even such a bond issue wouldn't provide enough money to do all of the improvements listed, he said. "We still have some details we need to iron out," said Essner.

mbliss@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 123


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Didn't I read an article a couple of weeks ago about a leadership group in Cape who wanted to educate the public about how important it is to buy local and support your local community with tax dollars instead of using the internet for purchases? Every time we turn around, someone is sticking their hand in our pocket. If it's not the Cape PD and firefighters, it's the County sherriff and road depts, and it sounds like it's a race to our wallets between the school board (again) and the city parks dept for the next bite. If any more taxes go through, I'll shop exclusively on the internet and in Jackson. Enough already!

-- Posted by Jones on Tue, Jun 12, 2007, at 2:52 AM

Read our lips, NO NEW TAXES.

-- Posted by JaysFan_20 on Tue, Jun 12, 2007, at 7:39 AM

No new taxes or tax increases. Some think the water park is needed so that young people will have a place to go to stay out of trouble. However, the city will charge too much for lower income kids to use it.

-- Posted by Make no mistake about it on Tue, Jun 12, 2007, at 8:25 AM

Everybody wants nicer stuff but no one wants to pay for it. I would much prefer a sales tax to an increase in property tax. A water park will bring in some people outside the city. They spend money too!

I agree with the mayer that locating the water park closer to the highway is a good idea. Progress costs. Cape has a lot to offer in the parks dept. Let us show it off.

-- Posted by SWBG on Tue, Jun 12, 2007, at 8:49 AM

A $6 million dollar waterpark!!!! To be used only 3-4 months out of the year.

-- Posted by Rodney King on Tue, Jun 12, 2007, at 9:10 AM

The commitment should be first to the citizens of Cape and then people from outside the area.

Many of these things should be user supported and not tax supported.

The elephant in the room is how much will it cost to maintain all of this after the initial investment. If the current pools do not support themselves why is it likely that newer upgraded faclities will be better, then the taxpayer will be responsible for an ever enlarging deficit.

-- Posted by John Baker on Tue, Jun 12, 2007, at 9:51 AM

Well I guess if this tax passes the members of parks and golf courses will have benefits cut. Just like the city is doing to the firefighters from the 1/4 cent fire tax. Watch what you vote for Cape Girardeau, your mayor and city manager are back stabbers!!!

-- Posted by FIRESUPPORTER on Tue, Jun 12, 2007, at 10:55 AM

How does our sales tax look compared to other Missouri cities of the same size? Is it higher or lower? I think the article should probably point that out so we can make an informed decision on whether we will support this or not. If our taxes are higher and we intend to add more, I would want to take a closer look at the management of this city. If our sales tax is lower, then we have to decide if this increase and its planned usage is the right place to spend our money. This died before and I think it is hilarious that they bring it up once again. We had a tax increase on the last ballot and a tax increase for the library, and extension of the tax increase for the TTF projects before that(which I love, keep up the good work). If this does get approved I would want to see users required to pay for a season pass to help with the costs.

-- Posted by Dude on Tue, Jun 12, 2007, at 11:25 AM

shorttimer,

You hit the nail on the head, even though you probably don't realize it. Cape isn't growing in population. Jackson is. Cape pulbic school size has been shrinking for years, but Jackson's has grown tremendously. What is the difference between the communities that causes one to grow and another to stagnate? Is it the lack of a water park? Are Jackson's parks or pools better? I don't see any real differences that requires 37 million dollars to fix. My point is simple. Let's spend money to fix the elephant in the room before we throw money at the latest branch of city government that feels left out from the spending spree. As for your "family friendly" water park, I'll wager it becomes another tween-infested rudefest like the skating rink. This tax increase will not lead to growth, just further upkeep costs.

-- Posted by Jones on Tue, Jun 12, 2007, at 11:27 AM

Put a waterpark out by the interstate and close the Capaha pool. How do you intend for the kids to get to the interstate? Ride their bikes on those highways? No, the working parents have to figure how to get them out their, and with the price of gas that adds more cost to the trip. I believe a waterpark should be a private enterprise and not a tax burden on society. Cape apparently can't keep up the property they now have, why add more. As far as the golf course---let the golfers pay higher fees to support their habit.

-- Posted by AVictom on Tue, Jun 12, 2007, at 12:58 PM

$36 million for parks and recreational areas? This is just an indication of what our American priorities have become. That much money would go quite a ways toward having a community college, which be more beneficial to the well-being and futures of many people.

A $6 million water park will need employees (creating more minimum-wage jobs, wow!), supplies, maintenance, repairs, insurance, and it has been mentioned, would only be open for 3-4 months out of the year. If this were a feasible enterprise for this area, private companies would be looking into it.

A huge water park in Texas does very well indeed: It is open almost year-round and is in a tourist area. For the most part, locals do not frequent the Park, mainly because of the high fees.

No New Taxes is truly a mantra we should be taking up.

-- Posted by gurusmom on Tue, Jun 12, 2007, at 1:34 PM

Dude the Sales tax rate here is high even when compared with larger cities in Missouri. This was one of the negatives we looked at when deciding to mvoe to Cape. Although the benefits of living here outweighed this tax. it does affect where we purchase things. We do not make large purchases in Cape to avoid the high sales tax.

A much better and more efficient way to fund the Parks project would be through the sale of municipal bonds. Municipal Bonds are awesome the City Can borrow the money and pay it back as the City collects money from Pool Use and other uses. If the City Chooses to go forward with the Civil War Musuem they can expect lots of tourism coming to Cape. Folks normally fight to buy municipal bonds too since the income from them is tax free. A better place to locate the water park would be old town. This would bring much traffic and needed exposure to Capes Greatest Assets. It would encourage tourism if located on a bluff overlooking the river and require users of the water park to see what Cape has to offer before and after using the pool. A water park located along the major highway would just encourage those to stop and swim and keep on going.

Think about it when you go to the grocery store the milk is in the back so you have to go through the whole store before you get what you came to purchase. You will likely stop and pick up something else in the store as you go to get the milk you came for. The same principle applies when creating assets to ones community. Make the Water Park generate sales tax from sales in the larger business community. Dont try to fund it with a add on sales tax. This is counter productive for the Citizens of Cape and our future development. I fully support the development of the parks the storm sewers and the water park but City Leaders you really have to be more creative with getting funding. Taxing your citizens to death is a good way to kill your community.

-- Posted by lovinlife&lovincape on Tue, Jun 12, 2007, at 3:03 PM


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