Blue Springs asks ‘what’s next’ after parks tax is defeated at polls

11/11/2013 8:00 PM

11/11/2013 8:00 PM

Backers of a special tax in Blue Springs to pay for park maintenance, development and a new community center will have to regroup, now that the measure has been defeated at the polls.

But city officials will still have to figure out a way to pay for overdue maintenance on city parks, said Dennis Dovel, city parks director.

It’s too early to know what the next step will be in funding the park system, Dovel said.

The city will address any safety or liability problems posed by the lack of maintenance, he said, but any major renovations on existing parks or development of new ones will be on hold for now.

Last week, 55 percent of voters said no to a special half-cent sales tax to fund parks and a $35 million community center. The tax would have brought in $3 million a year and had no sunset provision. It needed a simple majority to pass.

City officials had been discussing a community center since the late 1990s. Community centers have been built by several cities in the Kansas City area over the past decade as an enticement to draw new families.

The money also would have gone for park maintenance and development. The city hoped to develop 200 of its 600 acres of parks to keep up with residential growth, Dovel said. And existing parks need about $15 million in repairs.

Backers of the tax plan had been optimistic about its passage, despite a ballot that included a much-questioned Jackson County proposal for a half-cent tax to fund medical research. That idea went down to crushing defeat last week, with 84 percent voting against it.

Blue Springs residents have been supportive of park improvements in the past, but the turnout last week may have been affected by the Jackson County issue, said Dovel.

Turnout in Blue Springs was heavier than normal, with an unofficial total of 7,467 voting. By comparison, 4,412 people voted in April when three City Council seats were up for election.

Before the vote, proponents of the Blue Springs tax had said they expected their request to be alone on the ballot, but they were surprised by the late arrival of the medical research proposal.

City Council members have not had a chance to discuss the repercussions of the election defeat. But at some point officials will have to decide how to move forward with plans for the park system, Dovel said.

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