COLUMBIA — The proposed county park sales tax is a bailout for the struggling home of the Boone County Fair. At least that's what Steve Spellman argued at the Tuesday meeting of the Columbia Pachyderm Club.
The meeting was designed to inform voters about the proposed one-eighth-cent sales tax increase to fund improvements to county parks and the Central Missouri Events Center, which houses the county fair. Spellman, who hosts a radio show on KOPN and co-chairs the Government Affairs Committee with the Columbia Chamber of Commerce, was invited to speak against the county's tax proposal.
The six-year tax increase is expected to generate between $2 million and $3 million per year, according to previous Missourian reporting.
But Paul Prevo, a member on the Boone County Board of Parks Commission, said the commission decided not to endorse the sales tax because only 18 percent of its revenue would go toward parks.
"Nobody on the commission felt like it was something we could support," Prevo said.
He also said the Boone County Commission left the parks commission out of the loop on matters concerning the tax increase.
The majority of the sales tax would fund the events center, Spellman said, which is unfair because it failed to charge people or entities that actually use the fairgrounds. Instead, he said, it places the burden of funding the events center on the public.
He accused the county commission, which approved the proposal in May, of allowing the events center and its surrounding area to lose value because of mismanagement.
"The fairgrounds are broken, and (the commission) needs a bailout," he said.
The sales tax increase would also allocate money to a planned economic development fund. Spellman called those plans nebulous.
When the Boone County Commission approved the tax proposal, Southern District Commissioner Karen Miller said the tax increase could help park projects in smaller communities.
"Many small communities don't have the tax base to raise enough funds," Miller said. "This helps them get over that hump."
The parks tax will appear on the Aug. 5 ballot alongside a proposed statewide transportation sales tax of three-fourths of a cent. If both increases pass, Spellman said, some areas in Columbia would have sales tax rates approaching 10 percent. This could lead to some tax fatigue among voters, he said.
The current sales tax rate in the city of Columbia is 7.975 percent, according to the Missouri Department of Revenue. A city park sales tax will be up for renewal in 2015.
Supervising editor is Edward Hart.