The city council Monday approved placing the question on a mail ballot to be decided by voters in May. The bond proceeds will be used to replace the current public works building at its existing site and to make significant repairs to the city swimming pool. Ballots are expected to be mailed to registered voters in late April with a deadline for their return on May 13.
The city portion of sales tax at Fairway retailers is now 1.5 percent. With the state and county portions, the total current sales tax is 8.875 percent. That would move to 9.375 percent if the new tax passes.
If approved, the sales tax would have a 20-year lifespan and be used exclusively to pay off the bonds. The use of the bond money is dedicated to the two capital improvement projects. The bond amount includes $50,000 for the issuing expense. The pool project costs are estimated at $2.3 million and the public works project at $1.6 million.
The public works building is in “dire need” of replacement, Mayor Jerry Wiley said. “We can’t accumulate money fast enough” to take care of these needs, he said. “This is the most cost-effective and efficient way of heading off future expenses.”
The issues at the pool, including replacing the bath house, adding a zero-depth entry and replacing the deck, also are needed to bring the pool up to standards, Wiley said. “We don’t want to let our pool deteriorate to the point where it has to be replaced at a much higher cost.” The only other option to make the improvements would be a large property tax increase, Wiley indicated.
Councilor Melanie Hepperly said bonding for the projects should free up money in the capital improvement budget that can be directed toward other projects, such as street repairs.
The sales tax is expected to generate $253,000 per year based on 2013 sales volume. The principal and interest payments for the bonds are estimated at $277,930 based on a 3.5 percent interest rate. Either increased sales or a lower rate when bonds are sold would narrow that gap. Hepperly said she believes the general fund can handle any shortfall between sales tax proceeds and bond payments.
Mission is the most recent northeast Johnson County city to have voters approve a sales tax increase: to replace the city’s outdoor pool. Two sales tax ballots in Roeland Park have been narrowly defeated.