'Yes' vote June 2 will pave the way for new streets

The COVID-19 pandemic has wrestled most of us to the ground on several levels, but that doesn’t mean local municipalities are blinded by the temporary pause in planning.

Among the pressing issues for the City of Lake Ozark is how to improve its streets. Officials are hoping voters agree June 2 that the city’s streets need a major overhaul.

“I don’t think there’s anybody who doesn’t think we need new roads,” Rick Hasty, chairman of the Lake Ozark Citizens’ Transportation Committee, said recently. “The question is, how do we do it?”

There are two issues on the General Municipal Election ballot that, if approved, would be a major step toward fixing the city’s 90 miles of aging streets. Other sources of revenue will be considered if the ballot issues are approved.

•Voters will be asked to authorize the city to borrow up to $6 million over the next several years to support the various construction projects that would improve the streets.

•Voters will be asked to approve a Use Tax, which is a sales tax on out-of-state online purchases. This is not an addition to the local sales tax, but would only apply to online out-of-state purchases from businesses that do not have a presence in Missouri. Revenue would be used to help pay off any debt incurred during construction.

“We’re asking voters to authorize the city to incur up to $6 million in debt so we can begin to rebuild the streets,” City Administrator Dave Van Dee explained. “It’s not something we’d do all at once, but over several years. No individual construction projects would move forward without the approval of the board of aldermen.”

The city contracted with Cochran Engineering to undertake an assessment of the city’s streets. The finding was that to improve all streets would cost between $5 and $7 million over the next several years. Renovation of Bagnell Dam Blvd. from Quality Inn to the dam would cost about $2.9 – part of the total cost.

“It's just like the importance of keeping your house in order, keeping it well maintained,” Dave Van Dee said. “Streets, like sewer and water, are part of our infrastructure and, again like our homes, we want to keep them in the best condition possible. We would really be remiss and short-sighted if we didn’t at least try to make the improvements.”

Voters authorized debt in 2012 to expand the capacity of the wastewater sewer system, and in 2006 did the same to upgrade the water system.

“Now, our streets will be our priority in the future,” he said.

The city was denied a $3 million Governor’s Transportation Cost Share Grant in January that would have been a huge boost toward street improvements. The city’s share would have been $1.5 million.

“Without the grant, it’s even more crucial that we get the support of the voters on the two ballot issues so we can address the needs,” Van Dee explained. “There’s little chance we can afford to make any significant improvements if the issues fail.”

It’s a matter of financial reality that the city can’t afford to make payments on millions of dollars in street improvements without the debt authorization and the Use Tax approval, Van Dee pointed out. Sales tax revenues have remained flat in recent years – up only 1.29 percent from 2018-19 – which is about the rate of inflation. The Transportation Department budget – responsible for street maintenance and improvements – was slightly down from 2018-19.

“The revenue for any large projects just isn’t there, Van Dee pointed out.

“We just don’t have a sustainable capital investment fund to adequately repair, maintain and upgrade our streets,” Van Dee explained. “Operation of our day-to-day systems requires most of our revenue.”

COVID-19 has virtually shut down Lake Ozark businesses for two months, and ultimately the city will lose thousands of sales tax dollars. That makes approval of the Use Tax even more critical, Van Dee noted. Residents and visitors were not able to buy locally so they turned to online purchases.

“Those online purchases represent tax dollars that we stand to lose if voters don’t approve the Use Tax. We always encourage everyone to buy locally, but we also realize people will continue to buy online. We expect that trend to continue and those Use Tax dollars would certainly help pay off any construction debt,” Van Dee explained.

 

Ballot issues

Here are the issues as they will appear on the ballot April 7. It’s important to note that on Question No. 1, the wording speaks to transportation infrastructure as the focus of debt. That relates specifically to street improvements and revenue would not be used for capitol purchases.

 

QUESTION NO. 1

Shall the City of Lake Ozark, Missouri issue revenue bonds not to exceed $6,000.000.00 for the purpose of improving the City's transportation infrastructure system, and the principal and interest on said revenue bonds to be payable from revenues derived by the City from the City's Use Tax, and available general revenue funds derived from property taxes and sales taxes?

If you are in favor of the question, place an "X" opposite "YES". If you are opposed to the question, place an "X" in the box opposite "NO".

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QUESTION NO. 2                                                                                                      

Shall the City of Lake Ozark, Missouri impose a local Use Tax to be used to fund transportation improvements at the same rate as the total local sales tax rate, currently 2.75%, provided that if the local sales tax rate is reduced or raised by voter approval, the local Use Tax rate shall also be reduced or raised by the same action? A Use Tax Return shall not be required to be filed by persons whose purchases from out-of-state vendors do not in total exceed two thousand dollars in any calendar year.                                                                                                                         If you are in favor of the question, place an "X" opposite "YES". If you are opposed to the question, place an "X" in the box opposite "NO".

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