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Examiner
  • Council says 'let the voters decide'; puts parks sales tax on Nov. 5 ballot

  • The direction of the parks system in Blue Springs will be placed in the voters hands as they decided whether to take on a sales tax increase.



    The Blue Springs City Council voted 4-2 Monday to place a one-half cent sales tax on the Nov. 5 ballot. The measure is estimated to generate about $3 million annually for parks and park facilities in Blue Springs.

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  • The direction of the parks system in Blue Springs will be placed in the voters hands as they decided whether to take on a sales tax increase.
    The Blue Springs City Council voted 4-2 Monday to place a one-half cent sales tax on the Nov. 5 ballot. The measure is estimated to generate about $3 million annually for parks and park facilities in Blue Springs.
    District 2 Councilman Chris Lievsay and District 3 Councilman Ron Fowler voted in opposition.
    “I think we can get things accomplished without a tax increase,” Fowler said of his reason for voting against the issue. “Vesper Hall, Adams Dairy Parkway, Remembrance Lake, Hidden Valley, we got all these things without asking for a tax increase. We aspire to this goal of building a community center, but I am not sure tax increase is the way to get it done. We should live within our means.”
    If approved, the sales tax would be divided into several areas. The largest portion, $1.8 million each year, would go toward paying for the community center construction. Construction on the center would start sometime next year with an estimated completion date of summer 2016. Another $200,000 would go toward operations and maintenance of the community center. The remaining annual funds would be split in the following ways –
    • $620,000 for park maintenance and expansion;
    • $150,000 for senior services such as updating Vesper Hall and expanding transportation, programming and meals;
    • $10,000 for the Public Arts Commission;
    • $10,000 for the Blue Springs City Theatre;
    • $30,000 for maintenance of the city’s current and future public art pieces and grant funding;
    • $30,000 for scholarship assistance for city programs and services; and
    • $150,000 for a reserve fund.
    Currently, the parks are funded through the General Fund. However, with mounting costs in other areas and additional funds being put toward street maintenance and improvements, parks department officials believe the park systems is starting a slow decline. Dennis Dovel, director of parks and recreation, said the city’s deferred maintenance is currently around $15.5 million, and only one parks project is slated to be completed in the next six years within the city’s capital improvements program - the dredging of Rotary Lake.
    Councilman Dale Carter said it is a matter of need versus want. He said because the city has other priorities, funding for parks projects typically comes last. He said although he has been on the fence when it comes to a possible sales tax increase, he feels Blue Springs residents have the right to decide for themselves.
    “This is about what kind of community we want moving forward,” he said. “In our system of government, we need to put it on the ballot and let the voters decide.”
    Councilman Kent Edmondson said he has concerns about what a potential sales increase will do to businesses and wonders if the community can support an additional tax. However, he said he fears that if the issue is not put before voters now, Blue Springs will miss its window.
    Page 2 of 2 - “We do need to let the people’s voice be heard,” he said. “If we don’t do it now, we may never have an opportunity to bring Blue Springs citizens something they want. We should let them make their choice.”
    Both Lievsay and Fowler noted that when it comes to how the community rates the parks, it is always among the top three on the city’s annual Citizen Survey. Lievsay said it is about priorities, and the city has more pressing issues than park maintenance.
    But Councilman Jeff Quibell said it could take years for the millions of dollars in deferred park maintenance to be noted on the Citizen’s Survey and by then, he said, the damage will be done.
    “Yes there is a high acceptance rate for the parks, but the slow deterioration will take a while to show up on the survey,” he said. “Part of our responsibility it to figure out a way to solve problems and not wait for the Citizen Survey to tell us we have a problem. We cannot say that we know better and know what our citizens will agree to. We need to put it before the voters and let the residents decide.”
     
     
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