When we read or hear “tax and spend,” we think of the federal government. Those of us living in Blue Springs don’t need to look any further than our city government to see “tax and spend” government in action.
Two years ago, Blue Springs came to its citizens for a half-cent sales tax dedicated for the Police Department, generating approximately $3 million annually. This year Blue Springs chose to rid itself of its ambulance service but continue to keep the taxes generated to support it. Now the city is coming to the voters again for yet another $3 million in a half-cent sales tax for its parks and a recreation center. Before we decide whether to approve the tax, we should look at the city’s history of taxing and spending.
In 2011, the Police Department said it needed a new radio system, more officers to improve their response times, and a new building to conduct police business in. Since the voters approved the tax, the department has replaced the radio system, added seven patrol officers among the 17 new hires, and signed agreements for construction. The leadership knows how to spend the money for radios, personnel and buildings. The problem seems to be their service management.
According to a report given to the city’s leadership in July, the police response times for 911 type emergency calls before the half-cent tax in 2011 averaged six minutes. After hiring the 17 new employees with the new sales tax, the 2012 emergency response time averaged six minutes, eight seconds. In the first six months of 2013, the emergency response time averaged only five seconds less than pre-tax times at 5:55. It appears for the estimated $981,467 added annual Police Department labor cost the response times have improved five whole seconds from 2011. That’s almost a million dollars for a five-second improvement.
We’ve read that the city’s leadership wants to build a community center, complete with pools, that will overlook the city’s golf course and the proposed Missouri Innovation Park. What we’re not being reminded of is the city turned over the management of our Centennial Pool complex to the school district, apparently believing the school district could manage it better than the city could.
In the quarterly financial report given to city management this past August, the city’s golf course lost $97,031 in the second quarter of this year. That’s an interesting loss considering the city’s golf course has outstanding principle and interest on the debt for the course of $4,730,586 as of Sept. 30, 2013. This debt is scheduled to be retired in 2025. Imagine how much money the city leadership would have available if it wasn’t losing money on a golf course.
Missouri Innovation Park since 2007 has been talked about, promoted and celebrated as center of economic development, bringing hundreds of high-tech, high-paying jobs to Blue Springs. Since 2007, the city along with the Blue Springs Economic Development Corp. and the Blue Springs Growth Initiative, both largely financed by the city, have spent millions of dollars on Missouri Innovation Park. As of today, Missouri Innovation Park has no buildings, no high-paying jobs, and not even a street address.
The city of Blue Springs leadership seems to be successful at taxing and spending our money on things, ideas and people. It’s the same leadership, however, that has trouble managing those resources and ideas they bought with our money. Until the leadership demonstrates it can consistently manage the resources we paid for, I can not support giving it more of the money we have earned.