Why is a dedicated tax for parks being requested – can’t the General Fund for the City be reprioritized to pay for these items?
The City is required to maintain a balanced budget at all times. Costs may not exceed revenues. The City has worked to reduce costs and find efficiencies in service provision to use for parks and recreation needs. Due to the documented dollar amount of the deferred maintenance, proposed community center and undeveloped parkland, there will not be enough current revenue that may be redirected to fund these items without affecting other City programs or services.
Current revenue streams, including sales tax and property tax, are not growing at a rate to meet the current deferred maintenance and pay for other cost increases in the General Fund.
What will happen if the tax is not passed?
If the issue fails, the Parks and Recreation Department will continue to deliver the residents the best possible facilities and programs.
Currently the Parks and Recreation Department has over 15 million dollars in deferred unfunded maintenance issues. The Department will maintain critical items to ensure the safety of our residents, however, resources to address deferred maintenance items will be limited. The community center will not be constructed without dedicated funding.
Why are we looking at building a new community center?
The construction of a community center has been outlined in several citizen strategic plans since the early 1990’s. The center is designed as a community facility for all ages. The proposed design was established as a result of several community meetings with residents and survey’s taken on available facility features.
The center will provide connectivity to the Department’s City wide trail system and other City amenities. The center will be marketed as a component for economic development as a part of the Missouri Innovation Park.
Who pays this tax and how much will it impact me as a citizen?
Residents and non-residents making retail purchases within Blue Springs will pay the sales tax.
The ½ cent sales tax adds 1 cent for every $2 purchase or 25 cents for every $50 spent in Blue Springs and would raise $3 million annually. The current sales tax rate is 7.975% and if the tax is approved by voters, our tax rate will be 8.475%. Currently the City receives 2% (1% General Fund .5% Transportation and .5% Public Safety) of the 7.975% of sales tax collected in Blue Springs.
In other shopping areas, throughout the City, the sales tax rate may be as high as 9.475% if the businesses are in a Community Improvement or Transportation Development District.
What assurances do citizens have that the money will go where the City says?
By state statute, the revenues from the parks sales tax can only go for parks and recreation purposes. The tax cannot be used for General Fund programs or services. The Park Commission, made up of nine Blue Springs citizens, is charged with oversight of the tax. The Park Commission will make regularly scheduled reports to the City Council on usage of the tax and report performance measurements to track the impact of the tax.
How does this initiative affect program offerings?
There will be additional funds for programming which includes Senior Services, Community Sports League, Performing and Visual Arts and Scholarship Assistance.
How will the City’s trail system be affected?
There will be additional funds for ongoing maintenance and to allow consideration of expansion of the trail system.
Why is the tax proposed to be an on-going tax?
The Park Commission considered many options on the length of the tax. The Commission determined that an on-going sales tax would meet the current and future requirements of the Park Department as to on-going maintenance of parks, and future park land development and land acquisition as the community grows.
The tax will also fund payment of the community center construction bonds and operational cost of the community center.
If the tax were to “sunset” or expire, the dedicated revenue to fund the community center and long term maintenance of facilities would disappear.
If passed, what can citizens expect to see on timelines for implementation of the new equipment, personnel, and facilities?
If approved in November, the tax will go into effect on April 1, 2014. Implementation of proposed initiative would occur in the 2014-15 Fiscal Budget Year.
With regard to the community center, the City Council will need to approve the issuance of debt supported by the sales tax for the proposed community center facility. The center would then go through construction design in mid-to-late 2014 with construction starting around early 2015 with completion by mid to late 2016. The community center should be opened by late 2016 for the public’s use.
Do other cities utilize sales tax to fund parks and recreation needs?
Yes, of the top 30 communities by population (including Lee’s Summit, Independence, Liberty, Grandview and other local communities) only four communities do not have a dedicated park sales tax funding local parks needs. The four communities without a sales tax are St. Joseph, St. Charles, Blue Springs and Wildwood. While St. Joseph and St. Charles do not have a sales tax for parks they do have a dedicated property tax levy to address park funding.
Of the top 100 communities in Missouri 75 have a dedicated park sales tax to fund local park initiatives and 78% of those have no sunset.