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Linn County Leader - Brookfield, MO
  • Voters to Decide Future of Proposed Water Park

  • In November, Brookfield voters will be asked to approve a proposed half-cent sales tax intended to fund the construction of a new water park, as well as the upkeep of existing recreational facilities (i.e., parks), including the water park.
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  • In November, Brookfield voters will be asked to approve a proposed half-cent sales tax intended to fund the construction of a new water park, as well as the upkeep of existing recreational facilities (i.e., parks), including the water park.
    A sizable contingent of Parks and Recreation supporters/personnel attended Tuesday evening’s Brookfield City Council meeting where they witnessed a motion to place the half-cent sales tax on the November ballot narrowly pass by a vote of three to two.
    Council members Lonnie Trentham and Ed Heckman were joined in their support of the municipal ballot issue by Mayor Martha Beach. Councilmen Don Fuhrhop and Richard Techau voted against the proposed revenue source that would fund the replacement of Brookfield’s Municipal Pool, should the local
    electorate approve it at the polls.
    Brookfield City Manager Dana Tarpening initiated Tuesday’s presentation by observing, “Our existing pool has deteriorated, and we’ve been putting ‘band-aids’ on it for years.“ That public pool was constructed in 1962, putting it well beyond its expected ‘lifespan.’ In 1999, the pool was projected to last 14 more years, and it is now in serious need of replacement.
    Tuesday evening, longtime bond expert/financial consultant Joey McLiney  asked the Council to hire him for the purpose of “underwriting this bond issue.” McLiney elaborated, “If this half-cent sales tax doesn’t receive sufficient voter approval, the City will suffer no financial loss. My compensation comes from the bond revenue, so if the voters don’t approve the half-cent sales tax that will finance the bonds, you owe me nothing, and the City suffers no loss...The expense of holding an election would be your extra cost. Your election is an inexpensive way to ask the public what it wants to do.”
    The City would issue certificates of participation, and the voter-approved sales tax revenue would be used to pay off those bonds or certificates. McLiney explained that “certificates of participation are very similar to a lease-purchase.”
    This is a $2.5 million bond issue, but if no sunset clause is added, it will continue to provide funds to the City in perpetuity for the expressed purpose of maintaining the water park and other Brookfield Parks and Recreation facilities. Tuesday evening, the consensus of opinion was to not place a sunset or time limit on the proposed half-cent sales tax increase.  
    Insufficient funding of the Parks and Recreation Dept. has prompted Director Karen Grant to hold periodic fundraisers for at least the past 15 years. During the current fiscal year, only $125,000 has been dedicated to Parks and Recreation in the municipal budget, and $72,000 of that came from tax collections. Parks and Recreation has been operating on a 1988 tax levy and, of course, costs have continued to rise as that levy has remained the same. “We’ve had to delay projects and work from a bare bones budget,” explains Parks and Recreation Director Grant.
    Page 2 of 2 - A half-cent sales tax will generate an additional $350,000 a year. If the debt incurred by a new water park is spread over a 20-year period, an annual payment of $220,000 could be made on the water park, with $130,000 left over for other Parks and Recreation needs.
    If the half-cent sales tax is approved at the polls by the Brookfield electorate in November, the sales tax rate will rise to 8.475 cents on the dollar. For comparison sake, Lexington’s sales tax rate is 8.359, Higginsville’s is 8.0, Macon’s is at 7.850, and Eldon’s is at 8.125.
    While neither Councilman Techau nor Councilman Fuhrhop indicated they were opposed to the idea of a new water park, they did have issues with raising the needed funds through a sales tax increase.
    Councilman Fuhrhop stated during Tuesday evening’s Council meeting: “I’m not in favor of raising sales taxes; we have one of the highest sales taxes in the area already. Local merchants I’ve talked to don’t want to raise sales taxes...If we could pay for this some way other than a sales tax increase, I could support it.”
    McLiney advised that a general obligation bond could be an alternative. But unlike a sales tax, which would more universally generate revenue from any retail purchase made within the city limits of Brookfield, a general obligation bond would only target local property owners (i.e., property tax revenue), and property assessments are fairly stagnant. Local financial analyst Jared Wallace says it would take 80 to 90 cents to raise the funds for a new water park, and there would be nothing left over to maintain Parks and Recreation facilities.
    In a followup interview with Councilman Techau Wednesday, he explained, “I’m not opposed to the idea of a new pool. It has outlived its useful life and needs to be replaced. I’m just opposed to the funding mechanism. The Council has chosen to put this on the November ballot, so it will stand or fail on its own merits.”
    Municipal swimming pools and water parks are typically not self-sustaining; the price of admission won’t even come close to providing sufficient revenue to operate such facilities. Wallace says, “We want this water park to be as close to break-even as possible.“

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