More taxes for parks projects?
By Matt Caulder
Published in News on July 28, 2013 1:50 AM
Goldsboro City Council members will meet Monday to discuss plans for the city's parks -- and how to pay for possible improvements to the facilities and programs.
Monday's 5 p.m. meeting will re-visit the Parks and Recreation master plan to identify which projects are the highest priority. Council members are considering asking city residents for a bond referendum to pay for them.
At the last council work session on July 15, discussion centered on how to afford a new W.A. Foster Recreation Center at Mina Weil Park.
The center, as designed, is projected to cost around $6 million and would include separate youth and adult wings, as well as a double gym and shower facilities for Mina Weil Pool.
"Some of the council members seemed more comfortable with a $3 million project," Parks and Recreation Director Scott Barnard said. "They all seem to agree it was a community need, even the mayor, but the question was how to pay for it."
At the end of the discussion, council asked Barnard to present the master plan again so they could discuss the priority list.
If the council decides to pursue a bond referendum to pay for the projects, voters would have to decide whether or not to support the issue, which would likely lead to an increase in property taxes. The money could then be used only for the parks and recreation projects.
The bonds are usually paid back over a 30-year period.
Barnard said the measure would be a good investment for city residents.
"I don't think there are many people here who don't recognize that if we don't have the facilities to keep young people here we're in a bad place," he said. "It's not about haves or have-nots here, and I think that's pretty well-accepted."
A concern for Barnard is that if the new W.A. Foster is built without a bond referendum, the city will have little money available for other projects for at least four or five years.
"That is a generation," Barnard said. "A 14-year-old will be gone by the time anything else comes along. They'll be out of here as soon as they have transportation."
Barnard said projects with partners or where local money could be leveraged with grants to multiply the funds would get higher consideration than projects resting solely on the city's shoulders -- for example, the proposed sports complex off of Harding Drive, which the Goldsboro Family YMCA also is working on.
He said others have expressed interest in partnering with that project and that Travel and Tourism dollars collected through the hotel tax, instead of general fund dollars, could be used to repay some of the cost because of tournaments that would be held in the proposed sports complex.
"Everybody would love to build something really cool and pay it back with somebody else's money," Barnard said.
Barnard expects three or four projects to be packaged together and put out for a vote if the council decides to pursue a referendum.
"I think we'll get the go ahead to find out what projects people want to happen," he said. "We can hold those meetings for like nil cost. And the deadline to submit a referendum isn't until around December."