For the past two months, the City of Stillwater has collected feedback about critical infrastructure projects that could be funded by a general obligation (GO) bond.
“We’ve been listening,” City Manager Norman McNickle said, “and one thing we have heard is that some of you would like us to explore the idea of a dedicated sales tax to fund the proposed transportation andstormwater/drainage improvements instead of a GO bond.”
He said the City initially wasn’t looking at a sales tax increase, but there seems to be support for one — if it is used to fix bridges, streets and stormwater drainage issues.
“There are many ways to fund public improvement,” said CFO Melissa Reames. “If we consider a dedicated sales tax for transportation and stormwater improvements, we can still pursue a GO bond to relocate Fire Station 2 and build a new Animal Welfare facility — but the amount of that bond would be closer to $13 to 15 million.”
Dedicated sales tax and GO bonds have characteristics in common. For example, both options are regressive in nature; however, they possess a dedicated-revenue stream that could be used to secure financing over a specified term. Both options could fund projects as the cash is received; however, by possessing the aspect of a dedicated-revenue stream, securing financing for projects allows the timing of projects and completion before the cash is received.
She explained that these two options are companion financing mechanisms when utilized together allowing citizens to achieve capital improvement goals in an efficient manner.
The following are pros and cons for both options:
Sales Tax Pros
- Collected from visitors to our community who benefit from services and amenities during their visit
- 1Ž2 cent transportation sales tax currently generates $4 million per year
Sales Tax Cons
- Sales tax collection is a volatile tax and collections over the last three years have declined
- Higher sales tax discourages spending
General Obligation Bonds Pros
- Property tax is less volatile than sales tax
- GO Bonds historically have the lowest interest rates available
General Obligation Bonds Cons
- Approximately 30 percent of Stillwater property is exempt from ad valorem tax
- Current GO Bond pays out in 2021
Both options require approval by the registered Stillwater voters affording our citizens a platform to voice their approval.
“As we collect your thoughts on funding community improvements, we ask that you complete the surveys listed on the City’s website,” McNickle said. “We’ve included additional information about how much sales tax another half-penny or a full penny would generate.”
For more information about sales tax, GO bonds, the City’s critical needs and how to submit your input, go to http://stillwater.org/GObond. If you completed the GO bond survey that began in September, you may provide feedback on questions concerning a dedicated sales tax in another survey. The surveys will close on Nov. 30.
The City will also continue to speak at civic organizations and homeowners associations about these topics. If you would like a city representative to speak at your upcoming event, fill out a request form athttp://stillwater.org/page/