The Nov. 5 election ballot in Springfield is short, but officials say the two issues on it could have long-term effects to maintain the current level of some city services.
Both issues are renewal proposals with no increase to the city’s current sales tax rate of 8.1%. Springfield residents are being asked to decide if the city’s one-eighth-cent transportation sales tax should continue and to determine the fate of the city’s existing three-quarter-cent police-fire pension sales tax.
Transportation sales tax
City officials are seeking a 20-year sunset for the transportation sales tax, first approved by voters in 1996. It was renewed most recently in 2016, with nearly 86% approval, and has generated $102 million since inception.
If approved, it would be the second time this year voters extended a city sales tax sunset to 20 years. In April, voters approved the renewal of a quarter-cent capital improvement sales tax, which recently generated around $10 million annually, and previously had a three-year sunset.
Identical to the capital improvement tax issue, the transportation sales tax’s proposed sunset was made at the request of City Council, said Martin Gugel, associate director of Springfield Public Works. City staff members are seeking longer planning windows for transportation jobs.
“In the shorter cycle, we have to split up the project phases,” he said, referring to design and construction. “We can’t fully commit to completing all phases of the project during one cycle.”
If approved, Gugel said the tax is estimated to generate roughly $22 million over the next four years.
Previous projects funded by the tax include intersection improvements at Glenstone Avenue and Primrose Street, and Battlefield Road and the U.S. Highway 65 interchange.
Under the current proposal, six transportation projects are on tap for the first four years of the cycle. Gugel said a combination of city department and public input, prior public or partner agency commitments, and geographic distribution all factor into the priority of the projects. Part of the public input stemmed from 1,686 survey responses by citizens this summer. Gugel said he was pleased with the response, noting the number might be the threshold city officials use for future surveys.
The public was asked to identify their top five projects, and Gugel said those selections were balanced with engineering variables, such as crash rates, infrastructure condition and traffic capacity.
The proposed projects carry a price tag of $10 million, led by $4.5 million in intersection improvements at Campbell Avenue and Walnut Lawn Street and $2.8 million for new sidewalks and intersections along Central Street. The remaining $12 million expected is earmarked for other improvements, ranging from street resurfacing to bridge repair and replacement.
“There’s not really a priority of what comes out of the gate first,” Gugel said of the proposed projects.
Police-fire pension sales tax
The election ballot’s second issue, a police-fire pension sales tax, initially was approved by voters in 2009 and renewed in 2014.
A second renewal likely would allow the city’s plan to reach 100% funded status in 2023, said Janell Manley, administrative director for the Springfield Police Officers’ & Firefighters’ Retirement System Board of Trustees. The full funding is if all assumptions are met, she added, which includes the fund’s current 6.5% investment return.
The sales tax currently generates more than $32 million annually, with city officials anticipating around $33 million per year for the next five years. If approved, the tax would continue until 2024 or becomes 100% funded, whichever occurs first.
Springfield Fire Chief David Pennington said the pension plan started in 1946 to provide for disabled and retired city police officers and firefighters. By 2008, the plan’s funded ratio dropped to 35.5% and was $200 million underfunded, leading the city to take the tax issue to the voters.
In early 2009, residents narrowly voted down a 1-cent pension tax. A task force was formed, resulting in recommendation of a three-quarter-cent proposal appearing before voters later that year, according to Springfield Business Journal archives.
“When this tax was approved by council and taken to voters, it was determined to be closed to new members,” Pennington said of the pension fund, adding the tax is the only new revenue contributing to the plan.
As of June 30, the total assets of the fund’s plan were at $471 million, with a funded ratio of 80%, according to city officials. Reaching 100% is needed to pay long-term liabilities, Pennington said.
Without the pension sales tax revenue, he said the city’s general revenue budget would take a $9 million hit.
“We’d have to make some pretty hard decisions in the budget to balance it out,” Pennington said.
Archie Donoho started Archie’s Italian Eatery with son-in-law Lorenzo Hudson; Holly Bowdidge Childers opened Word on the Street Bookshop in Ozark; and a second retail store for personal safety equipment supplier Hard Hat Gear opened.
Ashley Fletcher, licensed clinical social worker, says her mentor was excellent at helping therapists understand their own self worth as well as that of their clients. Fletcher says this helps …
Joe Daues, CEO of the Breast Cancer Foundation of the Ozarks, says they want to spread the message of how they can help cancer victims. He says they plan to be highly visible on social media …
When Emery Bryant discovered new software that expanded her online yoga teaching capabilities, she recruited her favorite local instructors to start AWE Fitness. Not needing a brick and mortar space …
Jamie Thomas, vice president of Prosperiti Properties, says she spent years worrying that she’d miss opportunities if she put her family first. “The minute that I was brave enough to say, I’m a …
Gary Gibson, general manager of City Utilities, says public transportation is vitally important and the city is working to improve transit service with the acquisition of electric buses. He says they …
Tim Potthoff, project manager with Nabholz, says the construction industry needs skilled tradesmen. He says getting certified in a trade pays as well as most four year degrees without accruing as …
Paula Adams, president of Penmac, says they try to help clients find gainful employment regardless of whether they have a permanent address. She says they partner with Council of Churches to try …
“Sometimes I’m really bad at my email, other times, I’m very on top of it,” says Megan Short, executive director of Springfield Contractors Association. Short says to stay current, she often …
Donald Babb, former CEO and executive director of Citizens Memorial Hospital, says his grandfather was his first mentor. “He always told me, you can do whatever you want to do,” Babb says. “You …
Entrepreneur Amby Lewis says it’s important to show support for local businesses and events on social media. Lewis says liking. sharing and commenting on posts can increase awareness and help a …