Sales tax could bring $12.3 million to Columbia parks and trails

Wednesday, June 2, 2010 | 8:08 p.m. CDT; updated 9:11 p.m. CDT, Wednesday, June 2, 2010

COLUMBIA — For the past 10 years, revenue from a one-eighth-cent sales tax has helped fund Columbia's parks and trails systems, City Manager Bill Watkins noted during his State of the City address Wednesday.

Voters first approved the sales tax in 2000 and renewed it in 2005.  This year, it is time for the tax to come up for a vote again. Watkins hopes residents will extend it.

"We are at that five-year mark again, and, in my opinion, the tax adds significant value to our quality of life," he said.

The Columbia City Council, however, gets the first vote on whether to put the tax on the November ballot. The Columbia Finance Department projections estimate the sales tax would generate $12.3 million over the next five years.

Columbia Parks and Recreation staff have created a list of proposed projects to fit a $12 million budget with a $500,000 contingency to protect against cost escalations or a lackluster return from sales tax. The list of improvements and new facilities includes funding for the development of one neighborhood park per year.

The council will be asked to make its own priority list of park projects at its retreat this weekend at the Country Club Hotel in Lake Ozark.

According to a presentation on the retreat agenda, the park sales tax is one of the few sources of funding for parks in Columbia. The others are grants, donations and recreation user fees.

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