Cape city council supports putting four taxes on ballot

Tuesday, December 3, 2002

Four taxes. One package.

On April 8, Cape Girardeau voters will decide if a spread-the-tax system proposed by a panel of 12 residents is a good idea.

The city council thinks so, and on Monday night it agreed in an unofficial vote to put four taxes in the hands of voters to help fund operating expenses, equipment needs, stormwater projects, a new fire station, a police station addition and a family water park.

The council unanimously agreed to support a recommendation made by the Citizens Finance Task Force, which met on several occasions over several months, poring over data provided by the city. The task force thought a four-tax approach would be more favorable because it would place less burden on any one group of people. The sales tax would draw a lot of revenue from visitors, the use tax would target mostly businesses, and the stormwater utility fee and the property tax extension would target those who live in Cape Girardeau.

Started as discussion

The council did not take action on the issue Monday night. Mayor Jay Knudtson said he didn't know exactly where the council stood and just wanted further discussion.

It turns out the council was unified, although council member Hugh White said he was concerned about going with four taxes on the same ballot. It also turns out the council could not have taken action on the measure anyway because part of the election ordinance was not completed. The city is waiting for an engineering firm to write the language on the stormwater fee portion of the proposal, which should be done by the next council meeting.

The council also agreed unanimously to put the issue on the April ballot. That means the city will have three-plus months to educate the public on all four taxes, how they will be applied and what they will fund.

The recommendation includes a quarter-cent sales tax increase, a new local use tax that would tax out-of-state purchases of $2,000 or more, a 10-cent property tax extension and a stormwater utility fee that would cost the average household roughly $2 to $3.50 per month.

The council also unofficially voted to put the taxes on the ballot in the order of how much money it will bring into the city: the sales tax, the use tax, the stormwater utility fee and the property tax extension.

The money would go toward a list of prioritized needs and projects, beginning with operating expenses, equipment and stormwater improvements; and ending with major capital improvement projects, including a new, $1.8 million fire station No. 3, a $5 million police station addition, and a $6.5 million family water park.

The capital improvement projects would be paid for over 20 years. The taxes would eventually bring in roughly $4 million per year to the city.

Should not all four taxes pass, the operating costs would be taken care of first and the city would pay for whatever it could down the list of priorities, city manager Michael Miller said. That would mean the aquatic center would be the last project funded with the taxes.

bmiller@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 127

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