Letter to the Editor

Your View 1/8: Support PILOT

Wednesday, January 8, 2003

On Nov. 4, the Sikeston City Council by a 4-1 vote adopted an ordinance calling a special election for Feb. 4 and placing on the ballot at that election an amendment to the Sikeston City Charter. The ballot issue will be whether to impose a Payment In Lieu of Taxes (PILOT) to be paid annually into the general revenues of the City of Sikeston an amount equal to 3 percent of the annual gross revenues derived from the sale of electricity from our power plant.

The outcome of this election will have a significant impact upon the growth and development of our community for years to come. Because of the importance of this issue, the undersigned members of the City Council felt that the voters of Sikeston should know why we support the PILOT and to ask for your support.

Your City Council is making every effort to keep our city moving forward in the 21st century. Specifically we are making provisions for maintaining city services, including police and fire protection, which all of us have a right to expect, without asking our residents for more tax revenues.

The PILOT amendment allows us to derive financial assistance in meeting our obligations to you and in accomplishing your vision for Sikeston from the revenues derived at least partially from electricity sales to communities which purchase power from our plant.

What this means to Sikeston residents is that a proportionate share of the costs of operating our city government will be borne by the communities which have been reaping large windfall cost savings as they purchased our power over the past 10-15 years. A recent study conducted by the Missouri Municipal League reveals that Sikeston is the only city in Missouri which owns and operates its own power plant which is not assessing a PILOT on its revenues. Columbia, for example, which buys about the same amount of our electricity as our local businesses and residents consume, assess a 7 percent PILOT on the power purchased from our plant, making the income derived from that PILOT its second-largest source of revenue.

Is there any logical reason why it would be acceptable for our customers to benefit in that way from their purchases, but the owners of the power plant generating the power would not be entitled to some share of the profit? We don't think so, and we don't believe you will either.

The City Council is preparing to implement an all-out effort to eliminated dilapidated and derelict properties in the west and southwest areas of our community, ridding Sikeston once and for all of run down, burned out houses which are being used as havens for drug trafficking and other more violent crimes. The Land Clearance for Redevelopment Authority deserves adequate funding to assure the success of their efforts to stabilize property values in that part of our community and to provide additional protection for the decent, law-abiding residents who frequently are victimized by those taking refuge in or committing criminal behavior in these types of structures.

Likewise, we are finally fully staffed in our Department of Public Safety and capable of providing more comprehensive protection for our citizens by our police and fire divisions. Our streets are much safer now than they were in the days when we could only afford to have two officers on duty each night.

But all of this comes at a cost. No one, except those who intend to violate the law, wishes to return to the days when our streets were unsafe, and protection was provided at a bare-bone minimum. The PILOT amendment will allow us to continue governmental services at their present level and in addition to accelerate some needed capital expenditures, major street and drainage improvements, and recreational needs within our park system.

We take pride in the fiscal stewardship which the voters have invested in the City Council. The transportation sales tax and the capital improvement sales tax have consistently met or exceeded the strategic plans committed to by prior councils when those taxes were approved. But now we have an opportunity to accomplish projects never envisioned with current funding sources and to do so with financial participation from the communities which purchase power from our power plant, and without imposing all of the financial burden upon Sikeston rate payers.

In an effort to frighten, confuse and divide our City over this issue, some have said that the adoption of the PILOT will result in massive increases in your electric rates.

Under the terms of the Bond Ordinance, the City Council sets electric rates for our retail customers based upon recommendations by the BMU. Let us assure our residents of this: We will not raise rates to any of our Sikeston residents (residential, commercial and industrial) by more than 3 percent based solely upon the adoption of the PILOT.

The average electric bill for Sikeston residential rate payers is $60 per month. If retail rates are increased by 3 percent, the bill to the average residence will increase by $1.80 per month. In exchange for that increase, however, if the wholesale rates are increased proportionately as the Council believes they should be, the city would receive three times that amount from our wholesale customers. This is made possible by the fact that three times as much power is sold at wholesale than at retail from our plant. As should be the case, the cost of important projects would be shared by Sikeston and those communities which benefit from doing business with our power plant.

Please vote yes for the Charter amendment.

Sikeston City Council

Philip Boyer, mayor Mike Marshall, mayor pro tem Jerry Pullen, councilman Sue Rogers, councilwoman Michael Harris, councilman