COLUMBIA — Columbia residents voted overwhelmingly Tuesday to renew the one-eighth-cent sales tax that funds improvements to city parks.
The tax passed on a vote of 6,048 in favor to 2,506 opposed, or 70.7 percent to 29.3 percent. The tax would add 12.5 cents to the cost of a $100 purchase.
The tax will generate an estimated $18.4 million over the next six years and pay for park and trail projects, the purchase of park land and green space and the development of new parks.
Voter turnout was low
The park tax was the only issue on Tuesday's ballot in Columbia, and voter turnout was slow throughout the day. The only other measure on the ballot in Boone County was a proposed 67-cent property tax levy increase in Harrisburg R-8 School District. It failed on a vote of 299 to 260.
Just 12.5 percent of the 72,825 registered voters in Columbia and the Harrisburg district cast ballots.
This is the third time the temporary park sales tax has been renewed. It was first approved in 2000 along with a permanent one-eighth-cent sales tax. Voters agreed to renew it in 2005 and 2010.*
Several supporters emphasized the importance of parks.
"I like the park system we have. The community is growing, and one of the things that attracts people to Columbia are the outdoor opportunities we have with our parks system," said Wally Pfeffer, who cast his ballot at Fairview Road Church of Christ in the Fourth Ward. "We have a chance to remain an active, vibrant community because we have those opportunities."
Jim Loveless, a former Columbia City Council member, executive director of the Central Missouri Development Council and a member of the committee that promoted approval of the tax, voted in favor.
"I think that our parks add so much to our quality of life in Columbia," he said.
Loveless praised the Parks and Recreation Department. "They’re one of the few parts of our city government that do deserve a stable revenue source."
Lisa Guillory, who lives near Cosmo-Bethel Park, also supported the tax.
"People need to understand that the continuation of this tax funds all the beautiful green space we have here in Columbia," she said. She also noted that parks tax revenue was used to buy the Stephens Lake property.
"It used to be a golf course for Stephens College, and I feel like because it is a park, so many more people get to enjoy it," Guillory said.
Friends of Columbia Parks and Recreation hosted a watch party to view the election results Tuesday night at Flat Branch Pub & Brewing. About 20 people attended, including Parks and Recreation Director Mike Griggs. All were in a jovial mood, despite concern about low voter turnout.
"It is a little nerve-wracking to go through this, especially with all the work we’ve put into it," Heather Hargrove, co-chair of the friends group, said. "It’s good that those folks are out exercising their right to vote and making their voice heard. This is what the community wants — to continue the great parks and trails system that we have."
Griggs said he appreciated the committee's efforts and was relieved that voters supported the renewal.
Before the final results were announced, Griggs joked, "Tonight is either the last sleepless night or the first of many sleepless nights."
Second Ward Councilman Michael Trapp also attended the watch party and said he was "pleased" about the results. He was most excited about the acquisition of additional green space. An estimated $2.6 million of the revenue is targeted for land purchases.
Columbia’s total park sales tax is one-fourth of a cent. In addition to the one-eighth cent that was renewed, an additional permanent one-eighth-cent tax funds the Columbia Parks and Recreation Department’s operating budget.
A full list of the projects the Parks and Recreation Department plans to complete over the next six years is available on its website.
Missourian reporter Sean Na contributed to this report.
Supervising editor is Scott Swafford.