PAOLA — Paola city officials are working to educate voters before the Nov. 5 election with the hope that they will renew the city’s half-cent sales tax to fund the Paola Family Pool, parks and streets.
The tax has already made a big impact on the Paola community for more than two decades.
In 1996, Paola voters approved a half-cent sales tax to fund the construction and operation of the pool and generate revenue to establish a pool reserve fund. By the time the 10-year sales tax first came up for renewal in 2005, that reserve fund had grown to a sizable amount, so city leaders focused on needed improvements to city buildings, as well as streets and parking lots.
Voters supported the tax once again, and it was renewed in 2005 to fund the construction and renovation of four city buildings — the Paola Justice Center, Paola Community Center, Paola City Hall and Paola Free Library.
All revenue that was collected above and beyond what was allotted for the projects went toward improving city streets and parking lots.
The tax’s official renewal period was from 2006 to 2021, as it was approved by voters as a 15-year renewal. If it is renewed again in November, the new term will begin once the existing tax expires in 2021.
Paola City Manager Jay Wieland previously has said the swimming pool is in need of “major renovations and substantial upgrades” that he estimates will cost between $3.4 and $3.8 million.
An official list of planned pool upgrades has not yet been finalized, but Wieland previously has said city officials have been meeting with representatives of the Paola-based Splashtacular to discuss ideas for a possible splash park addition, new picnic area and piping upgrades, among other things.
City officials also have reported that the pool’s once sizeable reserve fund is now almost entirely depleted. The pool has an annual operational cost of about $150,000, and the reserve fund is projected to run out of money in 2021.
In addition to the pool, parks and streets would benefit from the sales tax renewal. Park improvements in general have been a recent focus for the council, and there has been some discussion about using a portion of the half-cent sales tax revenue, if it’s renewed, to make improvements to the city-owned ballfields at Wallace Park, or help build a dog park at Lake Miola, or help build a disc golf course somewhere in the city.
If renewed, the sales tax is estimated to generate about $11.5 million over its 15-year history.
If it fails, city officials said the mill levy would likely have to increase in order to continue to fund the operation of the pool. The mill levy is the rate in which property taxes are collected.
The Nov. 5 ballot question will read:
“Shall the following be adopted?
Shall the city of Paola, Kansas levy a retailers’ sales tax in the amount of one-half of one percent (0.50%), to take effect on October 1, 2021 (after expiration of the existing 0.5% retailers’ sales tax on September 30, 2021), with such tax to be levied for 15 years from the date it is first levied, with revenues of such tax allocated to City purposes as follows: (1) to improve, maintain, operate and develop all City parks and recreational facilities, including the Paola Family Pool, and to purchase land to develop new parks or recreational facilities; (2) to improve and maintain City streets, including curbs, gutters, sidewalks, public parking lots and all appurtenances; and (3) all things related and necessary to such purposes, including payment of obligations of the City issued to finance such purposes, all pursuant to K.S.A. 12-187 et seq., as amended and K.S.A. 12-195?”