Sales tax a topic for city council
A half-cent sales tax implemented in 2000 could be extended, and possibly raised, if the Baldwin City Council puts the matter before voters.
The sales tax was started to pay for the $1 million-plus Baldwin City Municipal Pool. It worked so well that the pool will be paid off five years ahead of schedule. The council thinks it’s best to keep that tax in play for other improvements and possibly raise it a quarter cent to help with capital improvements. Those were the discussions at Monday’s council meeting.
“The sales tax did generate more than expected,” said City Administrator Jeff Dingman. “It was estimated that it would cover the cost of the annual payment, which was $105,000. It did that and more. It typically generates $175,000 per year.
“That additional $70,000 has been accumulating,” said Dingman. “It addition to the $105,000 payment in 2008, we also paid an additional $300,000 last summer. By the end of 2009, we will owe approximately $150,000 and we should have enough funds to pay it off.”
He told the council he’d champion the tax’s renewal to provide for quality of life items that aren’t easy to find room for in the budget, such as recreation, improvements to the library, a hiking and biking trail and pool maintenance.
“We have a lot of people who come into town for events,” said Mayor Ken Wagner. “This is our opportunity to generate some revenue from this. Over a period of time, we could do a lot of things in the community that we wouldn’t be able to do.”
Dingman said there are many uses for the money, as identified by Steve Friend, director of the Baldwin City Recreation Commission. A big item is keeping the 10-year-old pool at its best.
“We definitely still have need for this sales tax if we are going to continue to improve the facility,” said Dingman. “Steve has pointed out some items that definitely need attention at the pool, the kind of regular maintenance items that you get with a 10-year-old facility.
“Our parks master plan process will also help us identify how we want to develop and improve our park properties over the next several years, along with other improvements such as library expansion.”
Wagner also suggested that the council consider an additional quarter cent sales tax for capital improvements, adding that the sales tax here would still be lower than in Lawrence. The matter wasn’t up for a vote, but Dingman was told to write an ordinance that would contain a question for voters to decide on separate half-cent sales tax questions. The council could trim that to a quarter cent when it votes on it at the next meeting.
“I think it gives some flexibility for the voters to decide,” said Wagner.
Council Member Ted Brecheisen, Jr., said he knew how he’d vote.
“I will say right now I favor continuing the half-cent sales tax,” said Brecheisen. “I don’t favor increasing it another quarter cent.”
The ballot would likely go to voters in November if the council approves the ordinance.