Public voices support for Columbia park sales tax extension

Monday, August 2, 2010 | 10:06 p.m. CDT

COLUMBIA — About a dozen citizens used Monday night's council meeting to voice wide support for an extension to Columbia's park sales tax.

The 1/8-cent sales tax, which funds park improvements, will expire next March unless voters approve an extension to it in the Nov. 2 election. But first, the City Council must agree to put it on the ballot.

Voters first passed the tax in 2000, according to a previous Missourian report. They approved an extension in 2005. This next extension, expected to last five years, would raise about $12 million for the Parks and Recreation Department.

"For building major improvements to the park system, its our primary funding source," Parks and Recreation Director Mike Hood said in the report.

The tax began as a way to preserve the land that's now Stephens Lake Park, which was slated for development before citizens pushed for its preservation.

The department plans to devote the expected sales tax revenue to four major areas, along with a 5 percent cushion fund for unexpected costs.

Here is a breakdown of how the money would be spent:

  • Improvements and renovations for existing parks and facilities ($4,765,000)
  • New facility and park development ($2,540,000)
  • Trail development and improvements ($2,070,000)
  • Acquiring and preserving land ($2,025,000)
  • A 5 percent contingency fund ($600,000)

A council amendment to the proposal delayed a project in the improvements area and reallocated the $225,000 for it to the land acquisition and preservation section.

Several people spoke before the council about the proposed ballot issue:

"I would like to make a case, but I won't, that the land acquisition part of this should be more because we have to think of the future even though we're in difficult economic times." — Paul Wallace, MU professor emeritus, speaking before the amendment was approved.

"I am very much in support of extending our support of our park for my son's generation." — Sherry Wyatt, Columbia resident.

"We have 700 children, so that's 700 families that are out there, and the restrooms and facilities ... are something that is definitely needed." — Chad Henry, Columbia Youth Football League president, speaking about Cosmo Park improvements.

"Rather than facing this every five years, why not just offer the citizens of Columbia a chance to say we want this to be permanent?" — former mayoral candidate Paul Love.

The council is scheduled to vote on whether to put the extension on the November ballot at the Aug. 16 meeting.

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