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Eudora News and Informationwww.eudorareporter.com

This Tuesday, voters will be asked for an increase in the city sales tax by 3/4 of a percent. The city is looking to raise the sales tax to help pay for implementation of the Parks and Rec Master Plan.  The money may also be used for other capital improvement projects in the city.

During the multiple forums held by the city to promote passage of the sales tax increase, city leaders outlined the particulars of the proposed tax increase.

“The projected revenue from the increase is estimated at $257,625 the first year and approximately $2,695,328 over a ten year period,” according to Eudora City Manager Gary Ortiz.

Ortiz, along with Parks and Rec Director Gary Scott, described to attendees the improvements that are part of the master plan which was developed in 2010 and passed by the City Commission in 2012.  Scott talked about the need for expansion of the Rec Center, particularly to the fitness area of the Rec Center. Scott  stated that many times of the day, all the fitness machines are occupied and people are waiting for equipment to become available for use.

Scott also talked about the need for an indoor walking track for patrons. Citizens routinely use the outdoor track at Laws Field next door to the Rec Center, but use is limited during cold and inclement weather conditions. In addition, Laws Field and the Nottingham property is currently for sale by the School District and while no deal is imminent, the likelihood of the property being developed in the not too distant future is there.

When asked about any possible aquatic center expansion, Scott stated that the idea is to expand the pool deck area which allow for more lounge area surrounding the pool and look at improved parking for the aquatic complex and Rec Center.

While there has been some implementation of parts of the Master Plan over the past couple of years, much of it has been waiting on funding. A couple of key pieces to the plan including walking trails throughout the city. The City and School District received some grants to develop the walking trails leading to and around the High School south of 20th Street and the trail leading to the Elementary school on 10th Street. Other trails are planned along with a large makeover to CPA Park in downtown Eudora.

Scott talked about the desire of the Parks and Rec department to redo much of CPA Park. The plan details a walking trail in the park, make a gradual slope from Main Street into the park which would eliminate the large retaining wall, relocation of the gazebo that currently sits in the park to another section of CPA Park and the most ambitious part of the CPA Park makeover, an amphitheater located in the park.  Other considerations include building restroom facilities on the grounds and creating some parking areas for park users.

City officials stated that the estimated impact on each resident in the city is approximately $40.89 per year or $3.41 a month. Officials did caution that their estimates are based on every resident in the city without regard to age and does not take into account sales tax paid by non-Eudora residents. They state the tax burden will be most likely less than what is estimated.

The current sales tax rate in Eudora is 8.15%, with 6.15% going to the state, 1% going to Douglas County and 1% to the City.  If the increase is passed by voters, it would raise the rate to 8.9% which would be slightly higher than the sales tax rate in Lawrence (8.7%). The only areas in Douglas County that have a higher sales tax rate are two special tax Districts in the City of Lawrence, the Free State TDD and the Oread TDD which both currently have a sales tax rate of 9.7%.

If the sales tax increase passes, it would not be implemented until October 1, 2015.  Officials also said that there would be no sunset to this increase if it was to pass. They said that in 2026, 0.5% of the city sales tax is scheduled to disappear.  That 0.5% was passed in 2006 to help fund the building of the Rec Center.  It would be up to City Commission and city leaders if they want to push for repeal of that sunset when the time comes about.

While support from citizens attending the presentation we were at seemed mostly positive, there were some concerns by the attendees.

Resident Molly Pratt stated she was undecided about which way her vote would go.

“It was more comprehensive than I expected,” Pratt said. “I am excited about the proposed project and the improved look to the Rec Center and improving the older parks (CPA)”.

Pratt went on to say that she was concerned that the estimated revenue would pay for Rec Center expansion but feared that project would eat most, if not all of the money leaving nothing else for sidewalks and park restoration.

Ultimately, it will be up to the City Commission exactly where the money would be spent.  While the sales tax question on the ballot states the money is to be used to “improve, construct, equip and maintain the public fitness and aquatic facilities including but not limited to sports parks, indoor and outdoor/fitness trails, and to provide funding for other capital expenditures”, the Commission could have some discretion and potentially different ideas where the money could go in regards to Parks and Rec and what “other capital expenditures” might be needed to fund.  With three seats on the Commission up for election, it is possible the majority of the Council could change.

Election results will ultimately make the determination if the Parks and Rec Master Plan will continue to move forward in the future.

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