After hearing public and committee comments, the Transportation Finance Advisory Committee approved a draft of recommendations for financing road improvements Tuesday night.
The recommendations will now go to the City Council for final approval. In addition to the recommendations, the committee voted to submit a list of additional suggestions and to have a representative address the council.
The committee, which Mayor Darwin Hindman appointed in August, has been researching ways to pay for road infrastructure in Columbia.
According to the draft, the committee considered 20 ways to finance road improvements. It recommended a combination of three strategies: sales tax, property tax and development fee and excise tax.
“The committee felt that three revenue categories may be appropriate to build a citywide strategy on,” the draft stated.
On a 10-year plan, the planwould generate between $12.6 million and $12.92 million. At the end of 10 years, citizens could vote to renew the plan.
Although the committee approved the recommendations, both citizens and committee members voiced concerns. During a public hearing, citizens praised the committee’s efforts but expressed concern about the recommendations, specifically the excise tax.
According to the draft, the tax could mean a flat charge of $1,000 to $1,200 per home.
Representatives from the Home Builder’s Association and the Columbia Board of Realtors said the increased cost might prevent some people from buying homes.
Citizens were also wary of whether the public would vote to pass the tax package. Karl Skala, a member of the city Planning and Zoning Commission, said the city needed to be held accountable for improvements with taxpayer money.
“If you’re going to sell this to the voters, you need to sell it back home,” Skala said. “You need to convince people that you’re doing something with the dollars you’re investing.”After the public hearing, each committee member voiced his or her opinion about the recommendations. Members repeatedly brought up a need for county and city cooperation and recognized the increased cost of housing.
“I don’t feel comfortable as a committee member that we can come to a consensus for the council that they know the city is going to approve,” committee member Michael Hight said.
The committee, however, did seem to have consensus on one issue: Road improvements are needed no matter what.
“I’m not wild about any of these options, but the real world doesn’t allow that kind of luxury,” committee member Al Plummer said.