COLUMBIA – Advocates for an increase in the sales tax downtown are one step closer to getting the issue to voters after Monday night's Columbia City Council meeting.
At its meeting, the council unanimously approved the formation of a community improvement district downtown. The lines of the new district will follow the current borders of the Special Business District.
Board members for the new district plan to get out and talk to downtown residents about a proposed half-cent district sales tax increase. The issue, which could make it to a ballot as early as April 5, would be voted on only by district residents. If passed by at least 50 percent of the residents, the sales tax in the district would increase from 7.35 percent to 7.85 percent.
Property owners in the district currently pay 47.88 cents in property tax per $100 in assessed valuation. The new community improvement district will now collect this tax, formerly levied by the Special Business District; it amounted to $172,000 in 2010, according to Carrie Gartner, executive director of the Special Business District.
The property tax, along with the proposed increased sales tax, would bring in an estimated $2.5 million over five years, starting in 2012.
Revenue generated from the sales and property taxes could go towards various district projects approved by the district's board of directors such as sanitation, public safety, marketing and beautification projects.
“Some of these projects might include hiring people to clean sidewalks and remove graffiti, as well as marketing efforts to reach out to real estate and business developers to attract new business to the district,” Gartner said.
The first steps for the new board of directors will be to set up bylaws, meeting schedules and an organizational structure, Mary Wilkerson, chairwoman of the Special Business District board, said in a previous Missourian article.