Cape task force taking suggestions on city's financial trouble

Friday, July 26, 2002

Projects proposed by the city of Cape Girardeau for the next five years should be ranked according to their need, say a majority of the 17 people who came to the second public meeting of the Citizens Finance Task Force Thursday.

The 13-member task force was created to recommend whether the city needs to increase taxes. The city has operated at a deficit over the past three years as revenues have slumped but has a list of costly projects officials say need to be started over the next five years. Among them are replacement of a fire house, a new fire training facility, a new police station annex, parks improvements and a new aquatic complex to be built near the Osage Community Centre.

The task force will make a final report before the council's Aug. 19 meeting, which is the last chance to put a tax issue on the November ballot.

At Thursday's meeting, assistant city manager Walter Denton outlined the projects the city is proposing and possible sources of revenue. A city revenue committee has recommended putting a three-quarter-cent sales tax on the November ballot.

The suggestion to prioritize the projects the city is proposing came from task force member Elizabeth Seesing. Denton said the city's plan is not currently prioritized. "These are the city needs for the next five years."

The other most popular recommendations made at the meeting were:

Exhaust federal and state grants and appoint a grant writer, a suggestion by task force member Joel Neikirk. City officials said each department currently searches for and writes grants independently.

Collect past-due fines. "The amount would stagger your imagination," said Doug Austin, who acted as the facilitator of the meeting.

Increase tourism.

Pursue aggressive economic development.

R. Melvin Gateley, co-chairman of the task force, said some of the same themes were heard in the first public meeting, including improved tax collection, aggressive retail recruitment and more tourism.

Six of the 17 people at the meeting were task force members. A few more were city officials.

sblackwell@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 182

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