Friday, October 21, 2016

TOP STORY >> Redirecting A&P tax in Sherwood

Leader staff writer

“It’s not a new tax,” fliers and posters scream throughout Sherwood. The posters are pushing for a positive vote on the parks improvement bond issue that will be on the general election ballot Tuesday, Nov. 8.

Early voting starts Monday.

A public meeting to discuss the bond issue will be held at 6 p.m. Monday in the city council’s chambers.

Mayor Virginia Hillman explained that the city wants to take the advertising and promotion tax that it is already collecting and use it to cover the payment on a bond for park improvements. “It allows us to make the improvements quicker, cheaper and will let residents enjoy the upgraded parks sooner,” she said.

Without voters’ approval, the tax will still remain in place with a large portion of it going to parks and recreation, according to city ordinances, and if enough is collected the park improvements will be made. “It will have to be done piecemeal and will take years to complete,” the mayor said.

Plan upgrades, based on the city’s master parks plan, include improving playgrounds, adding a tennis center, a soccer complex and an aquatic pad to the city’s parks system.

Jannsen has been talking to civic groups, gatherings and individuals for months about the bond issue, emphasizing that the issue, “Parks Improvement Bonds” does not increase taxes. “It only redistributes it so we can get all of our projects done in a reasonable time.”

Approval means the majority of the parks and recreation portion will be used to cover the payments of the bond issue. “Right now we are looking at around $4 million for the three main projects and money left over for upgrades to other facilities and parks.”

The parks director explained that currently when the department has a major project they go to the A&P commission and get the $250,000 to $300,000 they need. “But projects with a price tag of more than that have to be stretched out of a period of years.

“Our proposed soccer complex will run around a $1 million,” Janssen said, “and without this approval in November, it’ll take more than three years to build. But with the bond we can start on it next year and finish all in one swoop.”

“No matter what,” Sonny Janssen, the city’s parks and recreation director explained, “the tax is not going away.”

The city, since the 1990s has collected a two-percent prepared foods tax, also known as the hamburger tax, and by ordinance the majority of the taxes collected are for parks and recreation department projects and a smaller amount goes to the city’s advertising and promotion commission for projects like the Christmas Trail of Lights, Sherwood Fest and the Fourth of July celebration.

He added that because the funds come from the hamburger tax it is not just Sherwood residents footing the bill. “I’d say a large portion of this A and P tax is paid by outsiders stopping in at one of our many restaurants.”

“This is a issue that will greatly impact economic development in our community, and, therefore, we’re asking you to please vote yes for this,” said Marcia Cook, the chamber’s executive director.

“We’ll be distributing door hangers at Sherwood residences before voting starts to inform residents that the Parks Improvement Bonds is not a new tax and to ask them to please vote yes to expand and improve our city parks.”

Janssen reemphasized that the issue was not a new tax. “If I went before the council asking for an additional tax, I’d be run out of town,” he quipped.