Friday, March 23, 2012

TOP STORY >> Cypert starts push to extend sales tax

Leader staff writer

Cabot Mayor Bill Cypert kicked off his drive to ask voters to extend the city’s existing one-cent sales tax with a presentation to the Cabot Water and Wastewater Commission Thursday night.

If all goes as he hopes, a tax election to support about $30 million in bonds will be held in April 2013.

The list of possible projects supported at least in part by the tax includes a north highway interchange, expansion of parks and recreation, wastewater improvements, a dog park, an addition to the community center, a new fire station and equipment on Hwy. 5, drainage improvements in the Highlands subdivision and major improvements on Lincoln and Locust streets.

Cypert asked the commission to be ready in July with a list of sewer improvement projects as well as how much of the cost would come from the city sales tax and how much would be funded through an increase to sewer rates or possibly through improvement districts in which property owners would pay for improvements each year on their property taxes.

There are currently about 3,000 households inside city limits with no sewer hookups, and the city needs an automated sludge removal system for the sewer treatment plant.

“I would like a draft document for consideration by July 1, 2012,” the mayor told in lockstep with your commission to do the right things for the rate and tax payers,” Cypert said.

“All funding considerations for this project must be given fair and equitable consideration, appropriate priorities and due diligence,” he said.

Technically, city leaders will ask voters to “refund” the existing sales tax, which was passed in 2005 to pay for the railroad overpass connecting Hwy. 367 to Hwy. 38, the sewer treatment plant, community center, animal shelter and improvements to city streets.

In passing that tax, voters approved refunding a tax passed about six years earlier to pay for the well field that supplies most of the city’s water now. So, for practical purposes, the city has had the same sales tax to pay for different projects for more than a decade.

Cypert repeated to the commission a line borrowed from former President George H.W. Bush that the mayor has used more than once when talking about extending what he calls the city’s infrastructure tax: “Read my lips, no new taxes.”

He told the commission that he believes if voters understand that the tax isn’t new, and if they are told how city leaders want to spend the revenue, they will pass it.

“We’ve got to be transparent with them, but they’ll buy into it, and they’ll support it,” the mayor said.

The mayor was an original member of the commission he addressed Thursday night and is very familiar with the issues the commission faces.

Next week, he will address the parks commission which had considered asking voters for a new tax for its projects but now has agreed to wait and work with the mayor on extending the existing tax.