Sales tax approval would ensure Sikeston's growth

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Sikeston residents in November will be asked to approve a one-half cent sales tax to upgrade Public Safety salaries, to address some long-neglected street improvements and to fund some critical infrastructure issues with our park system.

The background for this all-important vote is important to fully understand why this funding measure is needed.

In recent years, area law enforcement agencies have steadily increased their police salaries and today, Sikeston finds itself offering some of the lowest starting salaries in this region. Area agencies in Cape Girardeau, Poplar Bluff, Perryville and elsewhere offer as much as $7,000 more for starting officers.

What happens is this.

Sikeston has traditionally attracted the best and brightest Police Academy candidates, but all too often, following their training here, they leave for higher salaries in nearby communities.

Approval of the half-cent sales tax will help to retain those quality officers who stand as the first line of defense against crime in our community.

Over a decade ago, Sikeston voters approved a sales tax to help fund Public Safety. That tax was projected at the time to increase revenues by approximately 4 percent annually.

Well we all know what has happened to the economy and the end result is that the 2004 tax has increased only around one percent total in that decade. That shortfall in projections has provided the financial crunch we now face.

At the same time, our street system is woefully short of essential revenues. Once again, this revenue shortfall has halted essential street improvements.

Our transportation system is extremely important for residents and business. Without safe streets, it is difficult to attract residents and businesses here.

And finally, the pride of our park system peaked several years ago. The Sports Complex is over 40 years old, and as the jewel of our park system, it is clearly showing its age.

Park bathrooms are an embarrassment and while our community parks once attracted countless tournaments, those events -- and the money they bring to our community -- are going elsewhere.

But just as important, we must have parks for our residents and our children. We must assure they are safe, clean and a welcome addition to Sikeston.

This brief column is simply an overview of the financial needs Sikeston faces. In the coming weeks, we will report much deeper into both the problem and the solution.

But, for now, we encourage questions from residents.

The city should be commended for their long-range planning and the courage to face these issues in an open manner.

Ample time is being allowed to have full citizen input and dialogue.

We have much to be proud of in Sikeston right now. Our growth is abundantly obvious.

Approval of this sales tax -- which will be largely paid by visitors and shoppers in Sikeston who use those services -- will help to move Sikeston forward.

Let me hear your thoughts.

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