Friends & Neighbors,
Today’s Shine a Light Report is focused on the upcoming election in Dardenne Prairie on November 7. Voters will be asked to approve a half cent sales tax to fund Parks and Storm Water projects and to approve the annexation of 8 parcels of unincorporated St. Charles County into the city limits of Dardenne Prairie.
In the past few weeks I have heard from many residents of Dardenne Prairie about Proposition P, the parks and storm water sales tax. Most of those residents are in favor of expanding our parks and recreation programs and are willing to vote for a modest increase in sales tax to fund that expansion. The increase is modest—just a half cent. If you spend $500 a month for groceries, clothing, meals out, and other purchases the tax increase amounts to $2.50. The sales tax will be paid by all who shop in Dardenne Prairie, residents and non-residents alike, so the burden of financing expanded parks will be shared.
A few residents have expressed opposition to Prop P, telling me they don’t think we need more parks or more taxes.
Here is what I have been telling folks. Parks and recreation programs add to the quality of life in a community and help to increase property values. The additional tax burden is very modest. A half-cent sales tax is expected to bring in about $600,000 per year. At current interest rates we could finance the construction of park facilities costing 6 to 7 million dollars and have 2 to 3 hundred thousand dollars left to pay for annual operating costs. Other revenue we now collect and spend on Parks would then be available for other purposes, such as street repair.
What do Dardenne Prairie residents want to see that we can afford to build and operate? What kind of recreation programs would people want our City to offer? Let’s all get together to share our visions for robust recreation programs and then design facilities that will allow us to deliver those programs. Will that be an indoor recreation facility that supports basketball, volleyball, pickleball, yoga, Zumba, other fitness programs and club meetings, family reunions and parties? Will it be an outdoor pool and other outdoor park amenities?
We want to be very thorough in consulting residents. The Board of Aldermen and I decided we would get a better response from the public if we already had approval for the sales tax and the assurance that funds will be available to actually build parks and recreation facilities and programs desired by the residents.
Some people have complained that there are no specific plans or pictures of a finished park. We did not want to spend a lot of City funds on engineers’ and architects’ drawings and plans until we knew if the public supported expansion of parks and recreation. One Alderman has reported to constituents that there are no plans for a swimming pool. That statement is literally true only because we have not called for ANY plans yet. We have not ruled out building an OUTDOOR pool. The cost to build and operate an INDOOR pool may, however, prove too high for the City.
Some people have questioned why we would locate a new park at the corner of Post Road and Highway N, relatively close to City Hall and existing parks. The answer is the City already owns the 10 acres at that location. If we were to build a park elsewhere we would have to buy the land. In fact, we were negotiating with the St. Charles Community College to purchase the gymnasium and athletic fields next to the Barathaven subdivision and the Great Rivers Greenway. In July, at the last minute, the College decided not to sell. Had we closed that deal the City would have had recreation programs underway in the gym this fall and we could have come to the voters with a concrete vision of a new park centered on that facility.
So, the next step is up to voters. If voters want an expanded parks and recreation program they will support the half-cent sales tax. If they don’t support the Prop P tax we will make do with the parks we have.
I will talk about the annexation of 8 parcels in a subsequent Report.
The next Board of Aldermen meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, November 1 at City Hall. The workshop meeting begins at 6:00 PM. Come see your City Government at work!
“Shine a Light on City Government”
DAVID C. ZUCKER
City of Dardenne Prairie, MO