Voters in two local towns will have decisions to make on Nov. 6 -- one concerning a tax initiative, the other a matter of governing structure.
In Jackson, voters will be asked to approve a sales tax that would go toward operation of a community center, which will be constructed using private donations.
The quarter-cent sales tax would raise $500,000 annually for city parks. Of that, $200,000 per year would fund the new center's operation and maintenance; the rest would go to unspecified park improvements. The city would see a $100,000 benefit to the general revenue fund, as a $100,000 general-revenue subsidy to the parks department will be eliminated. Mayor Barbara Lohr said Friday plans are -- perhaps several years down the road -- to build a swimming pool with the accruing surplus. The community's pool has needed major repairs in recent years.
A good case can be made that the city's parks could use a boost. As has been pointed out by a resident at meetings, the parks' restrooms do not have doors on stalls; some playground equipment and other park features are showing their age. Jackson has one of the best park systems in Southeast Missouri. It's a great asset to the town, but upgrades have been few and far between. As for the community center, there's no doubt it would be used. Cape Girardeau's Osage Centre is a prime example of a facility that is popular. A community-based fundraising group called the Southeast Missouri Medical Center Inc. has generously offered to build a facility in the $5 million range. Land has been donated by Bobby and Jane Clark and Ron and Marcia Clark to the Southeast Missouri Medical Center.
The facility would include a large multipurpose room that also could also serve as a tornado "safe room," meeting rooms, a historical room, an electronic library, office space, storage and a kitchen. It would be located on East Deerwood Drive.
City leaders say the center will not be built unless there is funding available to operate it; the sales tax would do just that. It would be unfortunate to see such a generous donation go by the wayside.
As for the sales tax rate, it would increase to 7.225 cents on the dollar, which is lower than the rates in Cape Girardeau, Perryville, Farmington, Sikeston and Fredericktown.
Some voters may be concerned the city has not specifically laid out the plans for improving the parks. We understand and agree the city could have done a better job communicating its plan.
But Jackson's conservative leadership has built trust when it comes to financial responsibility. While we generally encourage more specificity on tax initiatives, there are good reasons to cast a yes vote on Jackson's park tax.
Voters in the Gordonville Fire District -- which serves 7,300 people -- are being asked whether to increase the fire district board from three to five members.
Gordonville's volunteer fire department has had a lot of controversy in the past year or so with resignations and infighting. Things appear to be running more smoothly now.
As we've seen with other institutions, a three-person board gives too much power to too few people, and it leaves the district vulnerable to power plays and alliances. There is a point at which there can be too many people in the decision-making process, but five members is reasonable. The plan will bring more ideas to the table and spread out the pressure of decision making.
A yes vote seems to be a no-brainer on the Gordonville measure.