On July 27, residents will have the opportunity to vote on a 0.65-percent sales tax proposal that will be dedicated to street construction and repair.
Thursday, Mayor Brent Brassfield and Rickey Hayes, Retail Attractions LLC, addressed members of the Chamber of Commerce about the importance of supporting the sales tax initiative.
“Almost all cities we looked at with similar demographics as Miami have a dedicated street fund,” said Brassfield.
Monday, city leaders approved an ordinance requiring the city manager to set aside $500,000 for street maintenance.
The ordinance was approved after city leaders realized they may not be prepared to maintain street improvements that are planned if voters approve the 0.65-percent sales tax.
“There are 112 miles of streets in Miami,” said Brassfield. “2,000 city blocks. The cost to overlay the streets is $12,000 per block. The cost to totally reconstruct a street down to its base is much higher than that.”
According to Brassfield, a street study concluded that many of Miami’s streets are beyond repair.
City leaders say repairing city streets has progressed to the point of being critical.
One way or another, the cost to do so is going to be passed on to the people.
“We believe the community needs to be the master of its own destiny,” said Brassfield.
The only other option, according to Brassfield is a rate increase in city utilities.
“This option will place the complete burden on the citizens of Miami,” said Brassfield. “A sales tax increase will be shared with anyone who shops in Miami.”
A .65-percent sales tax increase would mean about $15 a year out-of-pocket for a family of four.
The Chamber announced their support of the street sales tax, explaining that better streets mean more tourism and more tourism means more revenue. “Although certainly there will be a little bit of pain associated with paying a little more, I am sure the benefits will result in a lot of pleasure as action is taken in rebuilding the roads and confidence in the future of hte city and its economic growth prospects,” said Dennis Thomas, Chamber Chairman. “The Board of Directors of the Miami Area Chamber of Commerce fully supports the street sales tax initiative.”
One of the key objectives of the Chamber is to assist in strengthening the economic base and increase jobs in the area.
“While just the word ‘tax’ can cause a negative reaction among many businesses and citizens, the words ‘jobs’ and ‘growth’ are just as compelling in a positive direction,” said Thomas. “And at this moment, in the view of the Chamber, the need for Miami is new jobs and growth for our community. Potential business owners don’t want to invest in a community when they see failing infrastructure; new residents equate poor roads with poor schools; tourists read the weblogs and not the positive and negative comments.”
Hayes agrees. As the city’s retail consultant, Hayes said Miami is loosing money to the tune of about $437 million annually to neighboring communities who offer better retail options.
Hayes, who was the mastermind behind the recent growth of towns like Owasso and Glenpool, said Miami is equally marketable.
“The problem is, Miami doesn’t show well,” said Hayes. “Improving the streets and cleaning Miami up would make it very marketable to retailers.”
Brassfield addressed concerns from the community about their perception of city funds.
“One of the questions posed by the community is why is the city spending money putting in new sidewalks when the roads are in such bad condition,” said Brassfield. “That’s a simple question to answer. That is a state road. The state is paying for the new sidewalks.”
City leaders have also been approached about money spent on building new ballfields and downtown revitalization.
“The money used for those projects have primarily come from project specific grants,” said Brassfield. “The ballfield was built with a grant from the wildlife department.”
Brassfield went on to explain confusion over a sales tax increase a few years ago put on the ballot by Ottawa County.
“That tax was to fix county roads,” said Brassfield. “Not city streets.”
According to Brassfield, it will cost an estimated $20 million to make all of the streets like new.
“From the beginning, I’ve been in favor of a 1-cent sales tax increase,” said Brassfield. “A 1-cent increase would provide the funds to replace 100-percent of Miami’s streets. The .65-percent will provide funds to replace .65-percent of the streets.
Voters rejected the 1-cent sales tax increase for streets in 2009 with vote of 327 in favor and 380 opposed.
Voters will return to the polls July 27 to vote on a .65-percent increase.
Council members will hold a public hearding July 5 during the council meeting and encourage the public to attend.