If approved, all three propositions would generate $79 million for street, sidewalk and transportation projects.
Propositions 4, 5 and 6 undoubtedly have generated more pre-election debate than the other three issues on Tuesday’s ballot. Together, they represent the city’s effort to generate more revenue for transportation projects, the vast majority of which would involve improvements to major streets.
Proposition 4 seeks a seven-year extension of the existing quarter-cent capital improvements sales tax. It would generate $35 million to be used for streets, sidewalks and other transportation projects, according to the ballot language.
Proposition 5 seeks a new eighth-cent capital improvements sales tax that would last for 10 years and generate $25 million, also for transportation projects.
Finally, Proposition 6 seeks a gradual increase in the city’s charge on new development: from the current 10 cents per square foot to 50 cents per square foot. The city has said it would phase in the increase, boosting it to 15 cents for two years, to 25 cents for the following two years and finally to 50 cents in 2010. The higher fees would generate an estimated $19 million over the first 10 years, all of which would be earmarked for work on major arterial and collector streets.
The city has developed a list of priority streets needs over the next 10 years that, when combined with other transportation projects (including sidewalks, a salt storage facility, landscaping, maintenance and corridor preservation) would cost an estimated total of $105 million. Propositions 4, 5 and 6 together would generate $79 million. The other $26 million would come from existing revenue sources, including fund balances, a permanent half-cent city sales tax for transportation, county, state and federal grants and interest income.
There are 18 major street projects on the city’s priority list. They include a northward extension of Lemone Industrial Boulevard, a new interchange at Gans Road and U.S. 63 and improvements to Scott Boulevard and Brown School Road and several street extensions. A complete list of the projects is available on the city’s Web site, www.gocolumbiamo.com.
City staff has said that if voters reject one or more of the three propositions, they’ll have to adjust their priorities accordingly.
A group called Timely and Responsible Road and Infrastructure Financing, or TARRIF, opposes Propositions 4 and 5, saying they create an unfair burden on taxpayers and represent inadequate planning. While members have reservations about Proposition 6, they’re encouraging voters to approve it. Holding developers accountable for the impact of their projects, they say, is a step in the right direction.
TARRIF hopes that rejection of Propositions 4 and 5 will prompt city officials to begin developing a more comprehensive plan for handling the city’s rapid growth. It also wants to encourage more public involvement and debate before the Columbia City Council decides on a course of action.