During a special meeting Wednesday, the St. Joseph City Council unanimously approved the half-cent sales tax which will be used to improve the 26-mile park system.
The sales tax now moves to the ballot for the Aug. 3 election. It will need a majority vote to go into effect. As of today, the issue on the ballot will ask:
“Shall the City of St. Joseph, Missouri, impose a sales tax of one-half of one percent (1/2 of 1%) for the sole purpose of providing funding for the local parks projects, such sales tax to be imposed for a period of ten (10) years from the effective date of such sales tax?”
During the meeting, the council unanimously agreed to add “sole” to the ballot language to emphasize that revenue from the sales tax will be used only for parks projects.
If voters approve the issue, the tax will bring in about $5 to $6 million a year in revenue.
“It’s really important for the growth of St. Joe to show that we value recreation and we value what people are going to be doing during their leisure time,” said City Councilmember Brenda Blessing.
In past meetings, city staff was unsure if these funds could be used on Civic Arena, a facility run by the parks department but not categorized as a park. During the meeting, City Manager Bryan Carter confirmed that the revenue from the sales tax could be used to improve Civic Arena, which will host the NCAA Women’s Division II basketball tournament in 2023 and 2024.
The council also agreed to form a committee to determine and prioritize the projects that will receive these funds. Each councilmember will nominate a resident to be on the committee. One member from the Parks and Recreation Board also will be added.
“Depending upon the makeup of the committee, making sure that we get a broad spectrum of all the people in St. Joe,” Blessing said. “We have good demographics of people to represent their areas and their interests and for the interests of the City of St. Joe.”
The city has a quick timeline to compile information and educate voters before the election. Carter wants the committee formed by June 1. The committee will then prioritize the parks projects in two weeks. That list will then be published, so voters know exactly how their money could be spent when they go to the polls on Aug. 3.
Blessing said this sales tax is important to prevent further deferred maintenance and improve the park system, which is listed on the national register of historic places.
“It’s important for them to know that chances are you have used the park in some way,” Blessing said. “You use the park for your kids playing games, you’ve gone to the pool, you played frisbee, you play golf, you just go on nature walks and so on. It’s an important part of everybody’s life.”