City clears tax issues for ballot

Voters will see six propositions on Nov. 8.
Tuesday, August 16, 2005 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 4:56 a.m. CDT, Thursday, July 3, 2008

After a public hearing Monday night, the Columbia City Council voted to place six propositions on the Nov. 8 ballot that would raise sales taxes and development fees to pay for road work, parks projects and public safety needs.

The proposals include extensions to existing sales taxes for parks, transportation and public safety; a new transportation sales tax; and an increase in the fee developers pay for construction along collector and arterial streets.

The majority of those who addressed the council spoke in support of funding for Proposition 2, which would include a permanent structure at the Activity and Recreation Center for recreation uses as well as a farmers market and ice rink.

“It’s not a subsidy for farmers. It’s a subsidy for the community,” Guy Clark of the Columbia Farmers Market said before the vote.

The ballot will also include Proposition 1, which asks voters to extend for five years that half of the existing quarter-cent sales tax for parks that is scheduled to expire on March 31.

The five-year extension would pay for the acquisition and development of neighborhood parks. The council has debated whether to seek an extension of either five or eight years and on Monday opted for the former.

Proposition 2 would extend the same sales tax for parks for another two years to pay for the permanent structure at the city recreation center.

Propositions 3 and 4 would extend the existing quarter-cent capital improvement sales tax. Proposition 3 would extend it for three years to pay for public safety projects such as new equipment for the Columbia Fire Department and new warning sirens for the city. Proposition 4 would extend it another seven years to pay for work on streets and sidewalks.

Council members debated whether to impose Proposition 5, which seeks to address a perceived shortfall in money for road projects, for five years or 10 years. In the end, the council opted for a 10-year tax.

“Five years would give us a jump-start on these projects,” Mayor Darwin Hindman said. “But 10 years will give us an even better jump-start.”

Both a consulting firm hired by the city and a task force appointed by Hindman have advised the council that it needs to find at least an additional $10 million per year to keep pace with road needs, both to alleviate traffic congestion and to accommodate new development. The new one-eighth-cent sales tax would continue for 10 years.

Finally, Proposition 6 will ask voters to approve an increase in the fee paid for new construction along collector and arterial streets. The proposal would gradually raise the fee from 10 cents per square foot to 50 cents per square foot over five years.

Annie Pope, executive officer of the Homebuilders Association of Columbia, spoke against the fee increase.

“Our fear is that very soon, the American dream for middle-income families in Columbia, Mo., will be completely out of reach,” she said.

The Columbia Chamber of Commerce, which last week endorsed all the propositions except Proposition 2, on which it remained neutral, had lobbied the council to cap the increase at 25 cents per square foot.

In other business Monday, the council:

n Held the first in a series of public hearings on the proposed $281 million budget for fiscal 2006. The council also introduced related ordinances calling for increases in sewer, electric and water utility rates.

n Approved a request from Billy Sapp for annexation and zoning of 161 acres at Route WW and Rolling Hills Road. The council previously approved Sapp’s request for annexation of 805 acres, which lie adjacent to the property annexed Monday and represent the largest voluntary annexation in Columbia’s history.

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