City makes case for sales tax increase

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Cassville aims to approve 3/8-cent tax to resurface 68 miles of streets

City of Cassville officials are making the case for why it hopes to pass a 3/8-cent sales tax in April, which would be earmarked for repairs to city streets.

Bill Shiveley, mayor of Cassville, said the city has about 80 miles of streets, 68 of which are in need of repair.

"Sherwood Forest and Southern Hills subdivision streets were resurfaced recently, but nothing was done with the gutters, shoulders or water runoff," he said. "If this passes, we wouldn't go willy nilly out there and fix random streets, but we'd do a study and come up with a list of priorities and also fix the water and sewer at the same time, so we don't have to go back in later and dig up the streets we've resurfaced."

Shiveley said the city has spent about $60,000 to $70,000 per year on street resurfacing, including the subdivisions and a few blocks on 15th Street, Reed Street and Chapel Street. About six to eight years ago, the city also resurfaced 1st Street and Old Exeter Road.

"If you cut out all those areas, we have about 68 miles of streets that still need resurfacing," he said. "At the $60,000 to $70,000 per year pace, it would take us 100 years to resurface all the city's streets."

Steve Walensky, public works director for the city, said there is no revenue stream to be used specifically for streets, and all recent repairs have been paid for out of the general fund. Walensky said the streets and transportation fund has been allotted $119,823 for 2014, but $44,167 goes to salaries, $36,000 goes to street lighting, $15,000 goes to right-of-way maintenance, $7,500 goes to fuel, and the rest of the money is smaller itemized expenses less than $2,000 each.

"Generally speaking, the streets need improvement," he said. "There has not been a dedicated fund for streets, so what we've seen is an ad-hoc approach up until last year, when we took the money out of the general fund for a few streets in dire need. Other than what we did last year, no work has been done because there has been no funding."

Last year, street resurfacing cost the city about $20 to $21 per linear foot of 2-inch asphalt spanning 22 feet wide. Shiveley said the 360,000 feet of streets needing repairs would cost the city about $7 million, a figure that does not include repairs to gutter, shoulders and water and sewer lines.

Shiveley said if the 3/8-cent tax passed, it would take 25 years to resurface all the streets, if the tax garners the projected $300,000 annually.

"[Alderman] Terry Hines came up with the idea, and I think it's my, and the council's duty, to bring well-thought-out ideas to the citizens and see if they want to fund them."

Shiveley said to speed up the process of resurfacing, the city would present voters with a bond issue, so long as the initial tax hike is approved by voters.

"Even at $300,000 per year, it would take 25 years to do all the streets," he said. "So, if people want to accelerate that process, we will ask for a bond issue and use the tax to pay off those bonds. With this issue, we need to be conservative with our work and do it right so we don't have to go back and dig the streets up after they are resurfaced."

Shiveley said the city will conduct a study of its streets to identify the most troublesome areas, then, based on a priority list, resurface streets as needed.

"We'll probably look at the streets with the most traffic and the most businesses that have issues with storm water runoff," he said. "We'll start with those and work our way out."

Shiveley said he has had about four or five people speak with him about the tax hike proposal, and all comments have been in favor of the issue.

"I haven't had any negative comments," he said. "We're talking about 38 cents for every $100 spent, but it's up to the people."

Walensky said the tax proposal is only a proposal, and it's up to the residents to vote on how the street repairs should be handled.

"I'm asking the residents to take a look at the streets and their condition, because it's up to them how we should approach it," he said. "We will respond either way, and if the tax is not passed, we'll do the best job we can with what we have."

If the tax is passed, all revenues would be specifically earmarked for streets and transportation, Shiveley said.

The ballot language was written at no cost to the city by McLiney and Company, based in Kansas City, Mo. Shiveley said the firm agreed to do the ballot language for free on the condition that if the tax passes and the city pursues a bond issue, McLiney and Company would be named the underwriter.

The ballot measure passed in November 2013 by a 3-1 vote. Alderwoman Ann Hennigan provided the dissenting vote.

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