Jackson sales tax would fund operation of donated community center building, park improvements

Tuesday, September 18, 2012
Howard Reynolds of Lexington, Ky., supervises his twin granddaughters Rebekah, bottom, and Rachel Moran as they play on the slide Monday afternoon at Jackson City Park. (Laura Simon)

City leaders in Jackson are excited about the prospect of a new community center -- especially since they won't have to convince local voters to approve using taxpayer funds for building it. But they will still need the town's support if plans for construction of a state-of-the-art center are to ever come to fruition.

On the Nov. 6 general election ballot in Jackson will be a proposition asking voters if the city may impose a new quarter-cent sales tax. Revenue from the tax, around $500,000 annually, according to city staff, would fund the operation and maintenance of a donated community center building and fund operations and some improvements in the city's parks.

In June, Southeast Missouri Medical Center Inc., a not-for-profit organization that has worked to build medical facilities and provide emergency medical services in Jackson, and donated land on which two Jackson public schools are now built, announced intentions to build a community center on East Deerwood Drive and donate it to the city. Current plans call for the center to include a large multipurpose room that would also serve as a tornado "safe room" approved by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, meeting rooms, a historical room, an electronic library, office space, storage space and a kitchen.

The total cost is estimated to be around $5 million. The center would be built on land that would also be donated to the city.

Mayor Barbara Lohr said if voters approve the tax, a dedicated parks and recreation tax fund will be created. If the proposition does not pass, plans for the community center will probably not go forward, she said. A sum of around $100,000 per year that is currently going to fund the city's parks would also have to stay in place if the proposition does not pass, which Lohr said takes away from additional funding priorities for the city, such as funding its fire, police and street departments.

"We are very concerned about that, and would be happy to have the opportunity to eliminate that subsidy," Lohr said.

Approval by voters would bring the city's sales tax to 7.225 cents on the dollar.

The city arrived at the quarter-cent figure by assessing the costs of operation and maintenance at several area community centers, such as the Shawnee Park Center and Osage Centre in Cape Girardeau, according to Lohr. Of the $500,000 in revenue the tax would generate, about $200,000 per year would fund the new community center's operation and maintenance, $100,000 would go into general revenue and the remaining $200,000 would fund park improvements. Possible improvements have not yet been outlined or prioritized by the city's park board, but action to do so would take place soon if voters pass the tax increase.

Assistant city administrator Larry Koenig said examples of projects include those brought to the city's attention by residents over the summer, such as updates needed in restrooms.

Koenig said the city's current revenue from property taxes and pavilion rental fees is not covering the costs of operating the city's parks. Sales tax revenue for the year up to July was at $2.14 million, which is up from the same period last year and the most recent calculation available.

Jackson voters overwhelmingly approved the last proposed sales tax increase in 2010, which was also a quarter-cent increase, for funding operations and personnel at the city's existing fire station and building a new station on the city's east side. The station was completed earlier this year.

The Jackson Board of Aldermen approved placing the proposition on the ballot at its Aug. 20 meeting.

Koenig said a committee to promote the passage of the proposition is being formed.

eragan@semissourian.com

388-3627

Pertinent address:

101 Court St., Jackson, MO

East Deerwood Drive, Jackson, MO

Map of pertinent addresses

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