New tax will pay for street lights

Downtown property owners favor the first increase in 25 years.
Wednesday, August 20, 2003 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 12:33 p.m. CDT, Wednesday, July 9, 2008

A higher property tax in the Special Business District will pay for new street lights and other projects downtown.

Property owners in the district, which is bound by Providence Road and Waugh, Elm and Ash streets, will pay an extra 6 cents per $100 assessed valuation beginning in fiscal 2004. That means the owner of a building worth $100,000 would pay an extra $60 per year.

This permanent increase, approved Monday by the Columbia City Council, will raise the 43-cent tax to 49 cents and generate an additional $12,000 annually for the district.

The money will be used primarily to install decorative lights in place of existing lights. The project will take several years.

“Since the money is being spread out over time, we obviously can’t do it all at once,” said Carrie Gartner, executive director of the Downtown Columbia Association.

Gartner said work already is being done on downtown streetlights at city expense. The city is painting lights on North Ninth Street and replacing lights on Fifth, Cherry and Ash streets at a cost of $39,000.

While new street lights are on order, prototypes have been installed on Fourth Street between Ash and Walnut streets, in front of the Columbia Daily Tribune. These lights have color-corrected bulbs that provide a much cleaner white light than the older fixtures, Gartner said.

The cost to replace each street light ranges from $570 to $655, depending on location and the amount of light deemed necessary for pedestrian safety. The whole project will cost the district about $220,000 over the next five to seven years.

Downtown property owners surveyed by the district overwhelmingly favored the tax increase; Gartner said there were no negative comments.

Arnie Fagan, owner of Cool Stuff and a member of the Special Business District Board of Directors, echoed Gartner’s sentiments.

“I’ve been personally opposed to almost every tax hike for the last 15 years,” Fagan said. “But this is a good thing.”

The property tax increase is the district’s first in 23 years.

The district plans to start replacing downtown benches in September. New trash cans should be installed by the end of the year, Gartner said. The district also is considering new bike racks.

“We’ve really been happy with how property owners have responded to our plan,” Gartner added.

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