I was pretty busy this week, and I have been talking with people that might be interested in being on my election committee, as well. I went to several meetings and have been in e-mail contact with a lot of people. However, I am taking this week off from writing about my campaign for state representative of the 51st District to discuss the proposed Saline County sales tax proposal that is up for a vote on April 3.
There are a few things that I don’t necessarily buy into on the tax, and I will discuss those first.
First, it is a tax, and we’ve had a lot of taxation that has not gone as planned. Anyone remember Proposition C that was supposed to end all of our highway woes? It ran out of money very early in its tenure, and Highway 65 was certainly not a beneficiary of it. Now, I am for good highways everywhere in the state, but Marshall Junction is a sorry sight and site. If Prop C had done its job, that area would be developed and old news by now. This sales tax would address that.
Next, a lot of the Marshall proposals are based on what I consider to be flawed advice. The proponents are relying heavily on a housing study done while I was on the council. The people doing the study made some claims that were possibly exaggerated. They claim to have discussed housing in Marshall with local realtors, but two that I know well were never consulted. MSDC was really pushing for the city-owned land north of Highway 240 on Route O. It has not improved at this time; there are few, if any, utilities there.
I don’t know that 100-plus houses valued in the $125,000 range is going to help Marshall attract workers. The proponents claim that a fair percentage of people working in Marshall come from out of town. I assume they have nice houses in Slater, Glasgow, Sweet Springs, Malta Bend and the like, so the cost of uprooting their families and changing schools may be enough to hold them back. I haven’t seen too many people from Columbia and Kansas City knocking down doors to live here, either.
Another concern I have is the composition of the Board of Trustees. The board will have the power to appoint and change the number of trustees. I would assume that this could include people with vested interests in being on the board. It is not unheard of for people to buy their way onto boards such as these. I am not saying it will happen, but the challenge will be to make sure that it does not happen. Two-year terms voted on by the people in their respective areas might be an alternative thought. If the sales tax fails, I feel it will be due to the proposed composition of the board. That’s what I am hearing during discussions.
I like almost everything else about the proposal. A lot of hard work has been put into this by people who know the area well and its problems. This vote is a no brainer for Slater, Arrow Rock and Sweet Springs, as they become equal members in the monies to be shared with Marshall. There is no doubt that all of the Saline County communities need an influx of funds, and these should be sizable.
Marshall wants to build an industrial park, or so I was told in an open meeting. Apparently, potential industries want at least 20 acres at a minimum, and the sales tax ought to be able to fund those improvements needed to attract businesses.
The biggest item is Marshall Junction. The early part of the tax would be used to pay off an obligation of debt called a Certificate of Participation. This will be a huge commitment, but the rewards could be spectacular. If completed, we will attract all of those people turning south or north on 65, and they should soon be able to spend the night, buy gas and food, and perhaps wander into Marshall or Sweet Springs to have a look around. This would be the biggest single economic boost to the area in decades. It would provide a lot of jobs during construction and afterward.
This would also help Saline County entities in applying for grants, as many grants require matching funds.
Once the Certificate is paid down, the four main cities will get their funds. By then, they should have some solid capital improvement proposals in hand.
Overall, I support the sales tax for the improvement to the junction. That would be done fairly quickly, and we would then have an even larger sales tax base to draw from.
Please consider voting for the Saline County sales tax on April 3.