Newton County has collected more than $806,000 from its quarter-cent road and bridge sales tax, Presiding Commissioner Marilyn Ruestman reported Wednesday afternoon at the quarterly Neosho Area Chamber of Commerce Economic Development Committee meeting.

The county began collecting the tax, approved by voters in November 2011, in April of this year.

“That will really be helpful to the small road districts around the area,” Ruestman said.

The funding is divided in a way that favors the road districts with the most miles to maintain, with the road district’s percentage of distribution based on mileage in the district.

However, the formula is also created in a way that benefits the smaller road districts.
The total collected revenue is split in half, with 50 percent distributed, based on mileage, to each of the eight road districts, while the other half is also distributed based on district mileage, however, the Joplin and Neosho road districts are exempt from that half of the funds.

Ruestman also reported that the county’s sales tax revenue is on an expected, continued decline, following the boost in area sales tax revenue following the May 22, 2011, Joplin tornado.

“It’s not drastic, we’re not where we were last year, but we’re about where we were two or three years ago, so we’re feeling OK unless it gets out of control,” Ruestman said. “It’s what we expected.”

Troy Royer, Neosho city manager, reported a similar situation for the city’s sales tax revenue.

Royer said city sales tax revenue is down one percent from what it was last year.

“Right now sales tax revenues are holding steady,” Royer said.

Royer also reported on the several projects under way for the City of Neosho.

Among those projects is the $9.5-million voter approved water system improvement project. Royer said the project is expected to be completed in February or March, weather permitting.

Once the water improvement project is completed, Royer said the city is considering a five-to-seven year plan to resurface city streets.

“We’d originally looked at maybe a five year plan, but I think, from looking at the budget, and the cost of asphalt these days, it’s going to probably stretch out to more of a seven year plan,” Royer said.

Royer also reported that he and director of development services Dana Daniel presented to the Missouri Housing Development Commission last week, lending the city’s support on behalf of area housing projects that are seeking funding from the commission.

Among those projects were two proposals from TerraVest Development, one of which would be the renovation of the Shaffer Building in downtown Neosho while the other would be construction of duplexes near Crowder College.

The committee also heard reports from the Neosho R-5 School District and Crowder College at Wednesday’s meeting.

Alma Stipp, Neosho R-5 superintendent, reported that enrollment is up in the district this year.

Stipp said the district received distinction in performance designation for the sixth consecutive year.

The distinction is given based on 14 standards, including academics and graduation rates.

The school district is also scheduling long-range planning meetings at each school throughout the district, and is planning to hold a public meeting on Tuesday, Nov. 27. to gather public input. Watch the Daily News for more details on the community meeting. 

The school district recently approved Sapp Design and Associates to complete the district’s long-range plan.

As the school district is working on a long-range plan to address growth in the Neosho R-5 School District, Crowder College is also continuing to grow.

Dr. Alan Marble, Crowder president, reported Wednesday that the college will hold a groundbreaking for the new McDonald County campus at 2 p.m. today.

The new site will be located on Larry Neff Drive in Jane.

Marble said Crowder officials are also pursuing numerous opportunities to offer a four-year degree in Neosho.

Crowder College has already partnered with Missouri State University to offer agriculture, business or education degrees and recently with Missouri Southern State University to offer business management degrees, however, Marble said more could be in store in the future.

“One thing that we’ve worried about for years is that we feel like we’ve been exporting our talent,” Marble said. “Two-year school, you get them ready, you send them some place else. We’ve continued to try to build on the idea of trying to get your bachelor’s degree at home.”

Marble said there are also programs in the works with Central Methodist University and Missouri State University, though no details are available yet.

He said Crowder has also teamed up with Gib Garrow, economic development director with the Neosho Chamber, to work with a biofuels company to get that company to possibly construct a biodiesel plant near Crowder College.

Additional reports included:

• Garrow reported that the conversion of U.S. 71 Highway to Interstate 49 is scheduled for Dec. 12.

• Renee Denton, Freeman Neosho administrative services director, reported that the hospital is in talks with one surgeon and two physicians, who they are hoping will join the Freeman Neosho staff.

• Ray Stipp, committee chairman, reported that there is a 3,200 square-foot retail space available in the Boulevard shopping center. Rent-A-Center had been located there, before relocating to Lusk Drive.