The fingerling Lake Tapawingo hides from easy view, tucked inside the polygon created by Interstate 70, U.S. 40, and Missouri highways 291 and 7. The City of Lake Tapawingo is small, only about 370 homes, but it faces the same challenges of the larger surrounding cities: how to find enough revenue to provide needed services to the community. Voters in the city will answer three questions on April 8 to decide how much they are willing to pay.
Question 1 says, “Shall the general fund tax levy rate in the City of Lake Tapawingo, Missouri be increased to the maximum rate of one dollar per one hundred dollars assessed valuation in order to continue to operate and provide City services?”
According to information distributed by the city to explain the ballot requests, the city currently has the lowest property tax levied in the area at 0.3519 per $100 in assessed value. This is the revenue which must fund the city's operation, including the police department, water/sewer, and civil court.
According to Mayor Rocky Queen, the city must self-support, and since the city does not have the benefit of local sales tax, an increase to the general fund tax levy rate is necessary.
Question 1 seeks the maximum levy permitted by simple majority vote, $1 per $100 assessed. The flier says, “This revenue is crucial to continue future operations of the city.”
Question 2 says, “Shall there be a thirty cent increase in the tax levy rate above the one dollar per one hundred dollars assessed valuation for general municipal purposes for a period of four years in the City of Lake Tapawingo, Missouri beginning the current levy year and expiring December 31, 2017?”
William R. Young, Ward 2 alderman, says this revenue would take care of past debt. He says the debt came primarily from two areas. The water/sewer department had several grinder pumps go out at once and the city had to borrow money to replace them. In addition, the city has a payroll tax liability owed to the federal government.
“We're trying to fix this and move forward,” Young says.
The information flier says the city owes the Internal Revenue Service $88,000. The bank loan is $209,000. Question 2 resolves these issues of the past and requires a two-thirds majority of the vote to be enacted.
Question 3 says, “Shall the City of Lake Tapawingo, Missouri issue its general obligation bonds in an amount up to $2,600,000 for the purpose of acquiring easements, designing, construction reconstructing, extending, equipping and improving the water lines and fire hydrants within the City, and paying capitalized interest on the bonds?”
“We have a lot of old lines,” Young says. “It gets to the point where it's not feasible to keep repairing.”
The flier says, “The 'worst case' scenario tax rate could be $2.02 per $100 of assessed valuation, although it is estimated the rate could be lower through securing a favorable bond interest rate.”
Question Three requires a four-sevenths majority of the vote for enactment.
“I think most people understand the issues,” Young says. “We're not, at this point, considering it an option that it won't pass. They understand why we have to do it. All cities need to levy taxes to pay bills.”
Janet C. Baldwin, Ward 1 alderman, adds, “We live here too, and pay it too. The biggest issue is to give the facts.”
The effort to give the facts included the flier, as well as meeting in the homes of residents to discuss the issues. In an assurance of the commitment to fiscal responsibility, the flier says, “The city now has restricted accounts in place for the money dedicated to its various responsibilities. Enforcement of the restricted accounts prevents the shifting of funds that previously disguised the city's true financial situation – and it prevents situations of that nature from occurring in the future.”
In addition to the financial issues on the ballot, voters will also have the opportunity to show support for three aldermen running for re-election. All are incumbents and running unopposed.
Baldwin says with a smile, “I really do love living at Tapawingo. We are our own city, but we are also a community. You see people out walking or pushing a baby (stroller) and you don't just drive by, you stop and talk. We have women's club and youth fishing. It's really special.”
Baldwin taught school and was a principal in the Blue Springs district. She moved to Lake Tapawingo around 1996. She began serving as an alderman in 2006.
Young moved to Lake Tapawingo in 2008. He graduated with a degree in engineering from the University of Missouri. He pauses and chuckles before adding the year was 1978.
“I first got on (the Board of Aldermen) to restructure the water/sewer rates and get the water/sewer on firm financial ground,” says Young. “I'm not political at all, but when you care about something, you get involved.”
Robert L. Seago is on the ballot for Ward 3.