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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Springfield City Council approved asking voters to continue the level property tax to pay for unfunded public safety capital improvement and staffing needs. The vote was 7-1 with Councilwoman Kristi Fulnecky voting no and Councilman Richard Ollis absent.
If approved by voters in a November election, the renewal would not constitute a tax increase.Currently, Springfield residents pay a 27-cent property tax (per $100 of assessed value), which generates about $8 million per year. Renewed by voters in 1999, 2001 and 2004, the LPT has funded large-scale capital projects, such as police and fire station construction, public safety apparatus and vehicles, stormwater improvement projects and emergency storm warning systems. All of the projects have been completed as promised with no increase in the tax rate.
The discussion to consider funding a new slate of projects began last fall when then Fire Chief David Hall proposed closing one fire station in order to reallocate resources to growing demands in other parts of the City. Discussion continued throughout the City’s budget talks in March and April where it was again reiterated the City’s need for funding of the public safety departments’ equipment and vehicle lifecycle replacement needs, along with maintenance of existing equipment and buildings. New facilities, such as the two new fire stations, also requires additional staffing. The approved ordinance accounts for that.
An amendment by Councilman Hosmer narrowed the scope of staffing funding to limit it to public safety employees, including those serving in the police, fire and public works departments.
Mayor Ken McClure made an amendment to add specificity to the bill before its passage. An exhibit details the commitments that include, but are not limited to the following, should the voters approve the renewal:
• Place into service a new West-Central Fire Station #13
• Place into service a new West Fire Station #14
• The replacement or upgrade of Fire Station #4
• The replacement or upgrade of Fire Station #7
• Needing staffing for Fire stations #13 and #14
• Needed equipment for Fire Department facilities and employees
• Needed equipment for Police Department facilities and employees
• Repairs and upgrades for existing fire stations
• Repairs and upgrades for existing police facilities
• Contributions to a City-County jail expansion ($2 million – if Greene County voters pass a new Greene County sales tax measure)
• Renovations to Historic City Hall
• Needed requipment upgrades and repairs for storm siren infrastructure
• Place into service a new Public Works Grounds Operations facility
• Needed improvements for the City’s stormwater infrastructure
“The projects mirror City Council’s adopted priorities of public safety, economic vitality, and fiscal sustainability,” said Mayor McClure. “We cannot sustain our economy without the essential services that keep our citizens safe and secure with effective police and fire protection, and well-maintained infrastructure. This is why Public Safety and Economic Vitality are priorities of the City Council. This measure makes good public safety sense.”
The City has consistently completed tax-funded projects as promised and have repeatedly renewed measures such as this level property tax and the 1/8-cent transportation and 1/4-cent capital improvements taxes by wide margins, McClure continued.
About the Level Property TaxLPT currently primarily funds projects via issuance of debt, with bonds issued and paid off over multiple years. As debt gets paid down and projects are completed, more “headroom” is available to address urgent needs. The current tax will sunset when the last bond payments, which is presently expected to occur in 2031.
Springfield City Council’s Finance & Administration Committee voted to refer the issue to the full City Council in July. City Manager Greg Burris presented details at a Council Lunch Workshop that same month. A multidisciplinary team of staff members, including Deputy City Manager Tim Smith, Assistant City Manager Collin Quigley, Police Chief Paul Williams, Fire Chief David Pennington, Public Works Director Dan Smith, Finance Director David Holtmann, Director of Public Information & Civic Engagement Cora Scott, Director of Information Systems Jeff Coiner and Assistant City Attorney Nicholas Woodman assisted Burris with the proposal.
The ballot language approved by council Tuesday is as follows:
"Shall the City of Springfield, Missouri, continue the current level of property tax, which is twenty-seven cents per one hundred dollars of assessed valuation, excluding the special levy for parks, public health, and the Art Museum, and be authorized to use the funds from such continued tax for municipal purposes; except that funds from this level property tax utilized for wage and benefit expenses shall only be authorized for Police Department, Fire Department and Public Works Department employees?
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For more information, contact Cora Scott, Director of Public Information & Civic Engagement, at 417-380-3352 or [email protected].