WHAT HAPPENED: Columbia voters passed Proposition 1, the park sales tax, which will extend a one-eighth-cent sales tax until March 2016. The measure passed with 64.4 percent approval; 20,520 people voted for it and 11,361 people against it.
WHAT IT MEANS: Proceeds generated by the tax — projected to be around $12 million over the next five years — will fund capital projects at parks throughout Columbia.
Because an existing tax has been extended, the sales tax designated for Columbia's parks will not change for at least the next five years, when city officials can either let it expire or ask voters to extend it again. The revenue generated by the renewable tax will go toward the Parks and Recreation Department’s fund for capital projects.
Over the next five years, Cosmo Park will receive $775,000 for improvements, the Gans Creek/Philips Park area will receive $1,750,000 for the first phase of development, and $315,000 will go toward building and improving bathrooms at Garth and Grindstone nature areas and at the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial at Battle Garden.
REACTION: Former Columbia Mayor Darwin Hindman joined others celebrating the results at Boone Tavern. "The Parks and Recreation Department provides opportunities for people to have satisfactory lives. They are right on the money," he said. "They have a great staff, great recreation program. (Mayor Bob) McDavid deserves a lot of credit. We both felt this was significant and supported it. If this had lost, money would have to have been taken from the general revenue fund. It was very important that this passed, for other things, too."
McDavid said he was surprised. "This is a bigger approval than I had expected. I'm very pleased with it," he said. "It’s a vote of confidence in the city for the way they’ve managed the parks. They’ve delivered on their promises in the past. I think people knew that and had enough confidence that they voted to extend this."
The sluggish economy might have made voters cautious about the tax, McDavid said. "I don’t think any of us knew what that meant as to how Columbia citizens would react: Who would vote, who would be engaged, would there be an anti-government reaction that would transcend everything that dealt with government? So I'm pleased that that didn’t happen," he said.
Parks and Recreation Director Mike Hood campaigned hard for the proposition. "Certainly we’re very pleased and very excited with the outcome of tonight’s election," he said. "(We) certainly appreciate the support that the citizens of Columbia have shown for the park department in passing this proposition. I guess we’re excited about the chance to do the improvements to the park system, and we’re ready to get to work on that."
LINKS: Information about the park sales tax and all the projects it is intended to fund can be found at the Parks and Recreation Department’s website.