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Nixa seeks tax increase to fund $39M in Parks, Police projects

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The fate of nearly $40 million in proposed construction projects for a pair of Nixa city departments hangs on the decision of voters in the Nov. 8 election.

The city has proposed a 1-cent general sales tax increase that, if approved, would fund a $25 million, 80,000-square-foot indoor sports complex for the Nixa Parks & Recreation Department and a $13 million, three-story new headquarters for the Police Department. Another nearly $1 million would be added to the annual budget for 11 additional police officers.

Nixa currently collects a 1.5% sales tax, comprising 1% for the general fund and a 0.5% transportation sales tax, which is dedicated exclusively for street maintenance. City officials say the general fund sales tax has stayed at its current rate since 1987.

The sales tax issue on next month’s ballot isn’t the first time the city has sought to increase the 1% rate, said Parks Director Matt Crouse. Voters defeated a 1/2-cent capital improvement sales tax proposal in 2014 and a 3/8-cent sales tax issue the next year, Crouse said, adding both failed by less than 20 votes. Tax revenues for each ballot issue would have benefitted the Parks & Recreation Department.

City Administrator Jimmy Liles said City Council and staff studied the needs of the Parks and Police departments before concluding that future funding for both should be tied to the same ballot issue.

“In essence, to be able to meet all of those needs and be able to afford it, we needed to ask the public for a full 1-cent increase,” Liles said. “We’re building these to anticipate the next 20 years’ worth of growth across the community. I’ve always believed in long-term infrastructure and long-term planning.”

Last year, the city brought in $3.4 million in general sales tax revenue, Liles said. It’s a total he expects would roughly double if the tax issue passes. Additionally, revenue from the city’s 1.5% use tax, which was passed by voters in 2018, also goes to the general fund. Liles said $663,000 came from that tax in 2021.

“We basically dedicate that entire 1.5% use tax to go to the general fund to keep up with those expenses,” he said, referring to Parks and Police services. “The use tax has really helped us out a lot.”

Park plan
The proposed sports complex calls for four indoor regulation-sized basketball courts, which could also serve as eight volleyball courts or 12 pickleball courts, according to the city website. The facility also would include a fitness center and indoor turf field to provide soccer and ultimate Frisbee, among other recreational programs.

The facility also is designed to accommodate future growth, Crouse said.

“There will be a 10,000-square-foot second-story mezzanine that will be undeveloped out of the gate,” he said. “It would allow us to grow into that and provide more opportunities and programming for the future.”

Crouse said the city’s 36,000-square-foot recreational facility, The X Center, is at about 90% capacity since its opening 20 years ago. He said expanded facilities are needed amid population growth in the city.

Nixa’s population is 24,137, according to U.S. Census Bureau data. City officials say that’s around double the residents who lived in the city in 2000

The Parks & Recreation Department currently has a little over 4,000 children participating in its youth sports programs, Crouse said, adding the new facility would offer opportunities to expand programming to older age groups.

“We almost stop at sixth grade across the board in our programs because we don’t have a facility large enough to branch out. This would also open us up for tournaments,” he said, noting it’s important to invest in sports tourism such as nearby Springfield and Republic are doing now.

In Springfield, the Betty & Bobby Allison Sports Town, Cooper Tennis Complex and Killian Sports Complex are all projects that have recently undergone new construction or have upgrade work in the plans. In August, Republic voters OK’d renewal of two quarter-cent sales tax measures for its Parks & Recreation Department – one for general operations and one for capital improvements. Republic plans to develop a regional sports complex, which includes 10 baseball/softball fields and eight soccer fields. Construction is targeted to start in 2024, according to past Springfield Business Journal reporting.

The Nixa sports complex would be the first project tackled if the issue passes and is probably a 12-month build, Crouse said.

“We would really hope by late 2024 to be opening that facility,” he said.

New HQ
Liles said there would be some shuffling of city departments to accommodate a new headquarters for the Police Department. 

“We’ll be working on both projects at one time, but you will see the sports center physically built first because the Police Department is going to be built on current property we own,” he said, noting the department is currently at 715 W. Center St., its home since the early 1990s. “In order to make that happen, we first have to be able to move our utility and billing department, which will come to City Hall.”

The utility building would then be demolished and used for space to build the new police headquarters, Liles said. The facility would be 35,700 square feet, over triple the size of its current 10,500-square-foot space, he said.

Liles said two floors of the new headquarters would be fully occupied with the third floor left unfinished to allow for future growth. With more than 40 current officers, he said the Police Department projects the need for 80 by 2040 to keep up with the city’s growing population.

Adding officers to the Police Department would be phased in, Liles said.

“Our hope is to add three or four a year,” he said. “We would start that process in 2023.”

City officials have held several public meetings on the issue in recent weeks leading up to the election.

“There’s some apprehension, as can be expected,” Crouse said, regarding placing a tax issue before voters.

“We’re just trying to do our best to get the information out so people can make that informed decision,” he said, noting if the issue doesn’t pass there’s a possibility of eventually limiting participation in some of his department’s programs due to lack of space.

Liles said a possibility like that isn’t intended as a scare tactic. Rather, it’s meant to let residents know of difficult decisions the city might face in the next few years if the tax increase isn’t approved.

“Public safety is always No. 1 for us in our community, and we always want to do everything we can on the police side to make sure we’re keeping the services we provide,” he said, noting it will be more of a challenge if budgetary constraints continue to keep the police department staffing lower than city officials desire.


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