Cape City Council puts four taxes on next ballot

Tuesday, December 17, 2002

The Cape Girardeau City Council decided Monday to ask residents to approve new taxes to help fund operating expenses, equipment needs, stormwater projects, a new fire station, a police station addition and a family water park. Voters will decide whether to approve the taxes on the April 8 ballot.

"This is a big step for Cape Girardeau," said Mayor Jay Knudtson. "It is the culmination of a lot of time and effort spent by a team that put these proposals together."

The proposals, projected to raise more than $4 million annually, are 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.

Knudtson said that because voters can be averse to new taxes, the issues were split among sales and property taxes, dividing costs more fairly for all.

"It will not target any one group," Knudtson said. "It will spread the burden around. The anticipated impact to a household, not an individual, is expected to be less than $100 annually."

Knudtson said he was unsure what chances all four ballot questions will have with voters.

Hearing on building codes

Before the regular council meeting, a public hearing was held on recommended building codes made by the city's Board of Appeals. The Division of Inspection Services sent out more than 800 invitations to area contractors. Many builders attended and took part in the discussion of the recommendations.

"We held this hearing because the council wants to get a good feel for what the issues are and what challenges they may bring," Knudtson said.

The recommendations include requiring new home construction to meet seismic standards, repealing electrical wire size requirements to match the National Electrical Code, requiring smoke detectors in all bedrooms, requiring the installation of arc fault circuit interrupters in bedrooms, requiring two exits from basements having any living space and permitting the conversion of duplexes to townhouses to allow for separate ownership, providing they meet firewall separation requirements between units.

Gary Arnold, a developer in Cape Girardeau, is opposed to repealing exemptions for seismic requirements because construction costs would rise, eventually passing to home buyers.

"This may prevent people from buying homes in the city and may send them to other towns," Arnold said.

Cape Girardeau builder Mike Annis opposed requiring two exits from basements but was in favor of a smoke alarm requirement. Last year, his home caught on fire and his central monitoring system was not loud enough to wake him, he said.

Knudtson said he was impressed with the turnout at the hearing.

"I am not prepared to move forward on this until a couple of things are made clear to me and until all of the people affected by this know what the impact is or would be to them," he told the contractors.

The council agreed another public hearing should be held so answers could be found for the contractors. That meeting will be held after the holidays.

335-6611, extension 160

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