Casino won't affect work on downtown Cape taxing district

Thursday, September 16, 2010
Submitted image This is a rendering of the Isle of Capri's proposed casino for Cape Girardeau.

Plans to form a new taxing district to fund improvements in downtown Cape Girardeau are moving forward, whether a casino comes to town or not.

"One of the things we've tried to do is to not assume they're going to be here because there are still obstacles," said Jim Maurer, chair of the community improvement district steering committee. "Whether the casino comes or doesn't come, it's not going to change our thinking on what we need to be providing."

The committee formed in March, before a state gaming license became available and Isle of Capri came to town promising to pay for downtown upgrades.

Under a development agreement with the city of Cape Girardeau, Isle of Capri will contribute $1 million for decorative streetscape work along Broadway and pay the city $2 million for land, $1 million of which the city has earmarked for community projects yet to be determined.

Maurer said the funds raised through the CID would be spent on projects that complement what the city would do with its casino revenue in the downtown area.

"The whole plan was to be the ongoing vehicle to maintain and continue to manage and oversee the improvements that we hope to be able to make in the downtown area," Maurer said. "We are trying to improve and add to the things the city does for the downtown area."

The group, which is made up of downtown business and property owners, is creating a petition that will outline the exact boundaries of the proposed taxing district, how much tax would be assessed and what services would be provided.

The CID committee is considering recommending a combination of property tax and sales taxes to be applied in the areas zoned as commercial business districts in downtown.

Increased security, downtown marketing, special event planning and beautification efforts, including picking up trash, pulling weeds and planting flowers, have been discussed by the CID committee as possible projects.

Under Isle of Capri's development agreement with the city, the casino would be exempt from being part of a community improvement district, city manager Scott Meyer said. However, Isle of Capri has agreed to pay into a special Riverfront Fund if a district is formed, up to 1 percent of its sales tax payments. Sales tax is not charged on gaming but would be charged in the casino's restaurants and shops. Isle of Capri has also agreed to pay 0.3 percent of its gross gaming revenue, up to $250,000 to this Riverfront Fund, which the city must match and must spend in the downtown area, Meyer said.

The CID committee has not met since the city approved the development agreement, so members have not yet discussed its impact on their plans.

There could be advantages to the casino not being part of the CID, Maurer said. Most of the businesses that make up the district are small businesses, not large corporations like the casino.

"It's always beneficial to have a diverse funding source. We want to have multiple ways to fund different kinds of projects," said Marla Mills, executive director of Old Town Cape. "Then we're not solely depending as a downtown on any one funding source."

The creation of a community improvement district requires the majority of property owners, both in numbers and in assessed valuation, to sign the petition. Then the petition is presented to the city council, which must vote to form a community improvement district and appoint members to a district board. For a tax to be imposed, it must be approved by voters who reside in the district.

Maurer said committee members hope to finalize the wording on their petition late this fall and will then begin meeting with business owners in the downtown area to garner their support.

mmiller@semissourian.com

388-3646

Pertinent address:

418 Broadway, Cape Girardeau, MO

Map of pertinent addresses

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