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SMITHVILLE — Smithville voters will be asked if they want to implement a half-cent park sales tax with a 20-year sunset on April’s ballot. If passed, the tax is projected to bring the city $475,000 in annual revenue for parks, recreation and stormwater needs.

“High priorities as established through the strategic planning process completed earlier this year relate to expansion of a trail and connectivity system in the community,” a city staff report states. “Previously identified priorities relating to parks and recreation facilities remain unfunded.”

City Finance Director Dan Toleikis explained that having a different stream of revenue would give the city the capacity to remove five years worth of parks and recreation projects from general fund expenses, freeing up those dollars for other areas of the city budget.

City Administrator Cynthia Wagner added that funds would also be available for future parks department staffing needs.

Alderman Josh Hurlbert was the lone dissenting vote when aldermen approved putting the effort on the ballot.

“I remain unconvinced on the need for a sales tax increase,” Hurlbert told the Courier-Tribune. “For example, through good budgeting in fiscal year 2020, the city is allocating $180,000 more to our parks budget than we spent in 2016, all due to economic growth and listening to our constituents and setting the city’s priorities accordingly. ... Smithville does not have the advantage of interstate traffic and has to maintain low taxes in order to attract economic development. We had seven commercial building permits pulled in 2019 after a decade of no new commercial growth. I do not see the wisdom of increasing sales taxes on these businesses before many of them can even open.”

The ballot language for the tax reads: “Shall the city of Smithville, Missouri impose a sales tax of one half of 1% to a period of 20 years from the date on which such a tax is first imposed for the purpose of providing funding for stormwater control and local parks for the city of Smithville, Missouri?”

More details on the tax effort will be printed as they become available.

Northwest Editor Sean Roberts can be reached at sean.roberts@mycouriertribune.com or 389-6606.

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