Tuesday was Election Day across the country, and in Columbia, there is one item to be voted on. That item is Proposition 1, which is a proposed renewal of a tax already in place. The renewal would add six more years to the city wide tax that expires on March 31, 2016.
According to the city of Columbia’s website, the rate of the tax is split into two sections, permanent and renewable. The permanent portion is used to pay off debt accrued from purchasing park land and to support the Parks and Recreation Department’s operations budget. The renewable fraction of the tax is the main source of funding for improvement projects, as well as maintenance and renovation plans in Columbia’s parks. Both the permanent and renewable halves of the tax are a sales tax of about 1/8 of one cent, and raise around 3 million dollars a year each.
“I think we have great parks here, and they need money to maintain them,” Columbia resident Ben Faber said. “I guess in the paper, it was saying that the last park tax helped Stephens Lake Park be created…and I think that’s a great park, so I went ahead and voted for it.”
Boone County Clerk Wendy Noren said despite there being just one item on the ballot for Columbia voters to vote on, voter turnout is noticeably higher than the last election held in Columbia in August. However, Noren was less concerned with voter turnout than she was with jurisdictions spending taxpayer money on multiple elections with relatively few issues, which she says is common.
“We’d prefer that jurisdictions would hold off and have their elections when they’re holding a regular election,” Noren said. “Unfortunately because the state allows it, many jurisdictions think it’s ok to spend tens of thousands of dollars in taxpayer money holding an election every eight weeks.”
Noren added that the election today is the first of five scheduled elections over the next 12 months, and estimated that Missouri will spend more than 40 million dollars over that same amount of time.