Hindman: No need to rush vote on tax

Without a final report on taxes for roads, initiaves are likely to miss the April ballot.
Tuesday, November 30, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 12:17 a.m. CDT, Monday, July 21, 2008

Columbia officials are worried they’re running out of time to place initiatives on the April 5 ballot that, if approved, would increase taxes to pay for millions of dollars in road work.

A group of developers, government officials and other community leaders, known as the Transportation Finance Committee, are tasked with recommending ways the city could raise $10 million a year in new taxes for the next 25 years to pay for road work.

Although officials said they hoped to have a proposed tax increase on the April ballot, the committee has yet to finalize its report.

Couple that with the fact that the council would like to hold public hearings before it votes, and it looks like the city might be running out of time.

The Columbia City Council would have to pass an ordinance by January in order to put any measure on the ballot.

Mayor Darwin Hindman said Monday at a council work session that the council should avoid rushing the issue to get it on the ballot and that a later election date might work better.

Earlier this month, a consulting team suggested that the city increase its annual spending on roads to $19 million from $9 million from now until 2030 to pay for anticipated road projects. The question is where that money will come from.

The consultants presented a variety of options to the citizens committee in mid-November that included raising the city’s capital-improvement sales tax by one-fourth of a cent, charging more than $3,000 in a per-home excise tax for future developments built on the city’s edge and increasing property taxes. The council could decide to draft a ballot initiative including any combination of those options.

Fifth Ward Councilman John John said council members and citizens on the committee have had concerns that have delayed the process, such as whether to grant tax credits to churches. The committee earlier said it wanted to present its recommendations to the council by Nov. 22, but it didn’t make that deadline.

“Unfortunately, as they have learned more, we have learned more,” John said. “It’s taking longer than we thought.”

Second Ward Councilman Chris Janku said he’s concerned that the council might only have one chance to draft an ordinance that voters will like, because the city would have to wait a year to get it on the ballot again if it were defeated.

The city’s current capital improvement tax of one-fourth of a cent expires at the end of 2005.

Janku said it is important to have the public hearings at least two weeks before a vote, because council members would want time to react to the comments.

Sixth Ward Councilman Brian Ash said he would like to have the opportunity to invite the members of the committee and the consultants to a work session so the council can ask questions.

Dates in June, August and November are also available for public elections. The Transportation Finance Committee is set to meet at 5 p.m. today at the Daniel Boone Building, 701 E. Broadway.

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