Revenue plan goes to council

Friday, September 27, 2002

The Cape Girardeau Citizens Finance Task Force was finally satisfied.

The committee, appointed by the city council, finalized its recommendation Thursday night and will ask the council to approve a revenue package that will fund major stormwater projects, a new fire station, a police station addition, a new aquatic center, seven or eight new employees, a pay adjustment for certain employees and the replacement of some of the city's worn-out vehicles and equipment.

This would cost the average Cape Girardeau resident about $100 per year in new taxes and fees.

The task force has been refining its recommendation for months, and had already offered one recommendation to the council. But after deciding to keep the tax-increase issue off the November ballot, the task force went back to work. The decision to come up with a new recommendation was also motivated by incorrect revenue figures. The original recommendation had included a municipal cigarette tax increase, prohibited by state law, and a use-tax estimate that was underestimated by approximately $600,000 per year.

The final tax package that will be recommended is as follows:

A quarter-cent sales tax increase that will generate roughly $2 million per year.

Introduction of a local use tax, which taxes mail orders and out-of-state purchases of more than $2,000. It has been estimated by the Missouri Municipal League that the city will bring in about $1 million per year from this tax.

A stormwater utility fee. Though the exact amount will have to be later determined with the help of an engineering firm, basic estimates are $2.09 to $3.68 per month.

A real estate 10-cent property tax extension. This tax is currently being used to pay off the Show Me Center bonds and is set to expire in 2004. The task force's original recommendation was to extend just 5 cents of this levy, but the extra 5 cents, or roughly $200,000 per year, was needed to compensate for the estimated amount of money that came up short after errors with the cigarette tax and use tax were discovered.

The task force had asked for more specific information from the city regarding what kinds of things the taxes would be spent on and the task force was satisfied, voting unanimously to recommend the proposal that was discussed Wednesday night.

The city narrowed down its personnel needs to seven or eight new public safety and maintenance positions, which will cost $250,000 for the first year and more each year after that based on annual raises. In all, the department heads had asked for more than 40 new positions, but the city decided that maintenance workers, police and fire personnel were needed the most.

The recommendation will also include another $250,000 in the first year for minimal wage adjustments. The city, if the recommendation goes through, would hire outside help to determine fair salaries for all positions based on what cities with similar populations pay. The study would also take into account the regional norms for salaries. The positions with the most glaring discrepancies in salaries will be raised first with the taxes. The city has done some internal studies before. City assistant manager Walter Denton said numbers have shown that the city's police department, which has a high turnover, is among the most grossly underpaid.

One project added through the new recommendation is an annual $50,000 contribution to the airport. With the $50,000, the city can get $500,000 in matching grants. The grants have been available in the past, but the city has not had enough money to apply, Denton said.

335-6611, extension 127

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