Mayor forms group to support Columbia Park Tax

The last parks tax was put in place in 2005.

Columbia residents will vote Nov. 2 whether to renew a one-eighth cent sales tax to fund city park improvements. The measure has garnered both criticism and support and has prompted Mayor Bob McDavid to announce a support committee.

The tax is used to fund green space renovation, maintenance and improvements for existing parks and new development.

Provided that the tax expires March 31, 2011, an extension over the next five years would raise about $12 million for park facilities, trails and park improvements. Columbia’s sales tax rate will remain the same if the measure is passed in November.

According to the Columbia Department of Parks and Recreation website, more than half of the projects funded by the 2005 parks tax are completed and a few are under construction or near completion.

Tammy Miller, a spokeswoman for the department, said even though no specific project under construction is a top priority, there are various projects that affect students, depending on their interests and activities.

“Any of these projects would benefit students because students use the parks,” she said.

Miller said many students who live near Rock Quarry Park, which is surrounded by student housing, are benefiting from the park’s recent completion.

In order to build support for the tax, McDavid announced the formation of Friends of Columbia’s Parks this month, which consists of residents and government officials.

Committee member Marin Blevins coached sports in Columbia and said he witnessed the benefits of parks for children.

“A good solid stable park center is great for kids as an avenue to do things and enjoy themselves and have a nice safe environment,” he said.

According to Blevins, the better the park system, the more attractive the parks will be for people in other cities to visit Columbia. He also said more park improvements and maintenance are necessary for the safety of the people in the city.

“The parks are good in terms of revenue because people come to Columbia to use our parks,” he said.

Although renovation of the parks can increase revenue for the city, members of the Boone County Libertarian Party do not believe it is fair to impose taxes on residents without the consent of the majority.

Committee member Gordon Rogers said even though he would not be voting as a Libertarian when he votes on the renewal, he does think those who do not vote for the tax should not have to pay.

“We shouldn’t have to vote on whether to keep our money or not,” he said.

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