The 7/8 cent sales tax would be in effect for 5 years and would generate $6 million to renovate and expand the YMCA and allow the Boonslick Regional Library to move to the Kemper campus.
In odd-numbered years, August isn’t typically a time for major elections, but Boonville voters will decide Aug. 6 on a temporary ⅞-cent sales tax when they go to the ballot in two weeks.
The proposed sales tax would pay for improvements to the Kemper Campus that would allow the YMCA to expand and the Boonslick Regional Library to move to the campus from its current Main Street building. It would expire after 5 years and would not be renewed, according to its supporters.
What’s the plan?
This sales tax would generate around $6 million over 5 years, and that would pay for three major projects:
A $1 million renovation of Johnson Field House, which houses the YMCA
A $4 million renovation and expansion of Academic Hall, the smaller building to the right of the field house when looking from Third Street. Academic Hall would connect to Johnson Field House and the YMCA would use both buildings
A $500,000 parking addition where K Barracks currently stands, allowing the Boonslick Regional Library to move into the Library Learning Center, the central building on the Kemper Campus
The remaining $500,000 would pay for engineering and design for those projects.
The long-term plan for redeveloping Kemper Campus extends beyond the YMCA and library projects. The city would use existing tax revenue to tear down K and D Barracks and extend Second Street through to Porter Street.
The city has been working towards demolishing K Barracks for years. It bought the building in 2003, when Kemper Military Academy closed, and had asbestos removed in 2016 so the building would be safe to tear down. It’s scheduled to come down this year whether or not the sales tax passes in August, said Assistant City Administrator Kate Fjell.
The city also plans to put a fishing pond back on the Kemper Campus, but it’s a lower priority than the other projects. “It’s been on our list since 2009,” Fjell said. “It’s one of those dream items that you hope one day you get to”
What would this mean for the YMCA?
Renovations to Johnson Field House are a necessity for the YMCA, said Executive Director Matt Schneringer. The building isn’t up to state standards for childcare. The state grandfathered the YMCA in so it could offer childcare, but soon it’s going to crack down, and the YMCA could lose its license, Schneringer said.
The YMCA’s children’s area is in the only air conditioned space in Johnson Field House. The area is comprised of two rooms separated by glass walls from the exercise equipment area. Last year, there were 120 kids in the summer day camp, stretching the limits of the space, Schneringer said.
As the only air conditioned space, the rooms are used a lot during the hotter months. The YMCA tries to limit how much time kids spend in the upstairs gym during the summer. That wide open space with hardwood basketball courts is too large to cool, Schneringer said.
The plan for Academic Hall is to put in more classrooms, activity space, gym space and kitchen facilities. It would be air conditioned, because the building is much smaller than the field house. That would let the YMCA expand its children’s programs. The state only allows childcare providers to serve a certain number of children per square foot of space. During the school year, the YMCA is capped at 75 children, and it’s had to turn people away, Schneringer said. Academic Hall would increase available space about 30 percent, so the YMCA would be able to serve more children.
The Academic Hall renovation would also create more gym space for the community, which is in short supply for most of the school year, Schneringer said. The courts would be available for teams to reserve and use, he said.
What would this mean for the library?
The library wants to move out of the building on Main Street and into the Kemper building that State Fair Community College used as its Library Learning Center. Realizing its enrollment wasn’t going to grow much more, the college decided to consolidate everything into Science Hall.
The Library Learning Center is vacant again, but it doesn’t require major renovations. Kemper did a lot of the heavy lifting, reinforcing the floors to hold all the library’s heavy books just before it closed, Fjell said,
The city also spent almost $700,000 to install elevators, accessible entrances and parking, as well as renovate the basement after it took over the building and rented it to State Fair, Fjell said. The library still needs additional parking, which is in short supply at Kemper, said Mary Pat Abele, who serves on the Boonslick Regional Library Board of Directors.
Out of the new sales tax, $500,000 would pay to build a 32-space parking lot where K Barracks currently stands. If the library moves to the Kemper building, it needs to be accessible. The building on Main Street is crowded and not very comfortable or attractive, but patrons can easily park just a few feet from the entrance, Abele said.
The Kemper space would let the library fill community needs. There would be space open for meetings, a children’s area and green space outside, Abele said. The library could collaborate on programs with the YMCA or the college, too. The new Second Street corridor would be a “vivacious family center,” she said.
“If you have a 4-year-old playing soccer and your 12 year-old doesn’t want to watch, they can come into the library, Abele said.
Why do we need a sales tax to pay for it?
The city has a few other sales tax funds, including the half-cent Parks and Stormwater sales tax, half-cent Capital Improvement Program sales tax and the Isle of Capri Casino gaming tax.
The parks sales tax is tied up for the next five years paying off bonds for stormwater flow improvements and the soccer complex. Those will be paid off when the new sales tax expires, opening up the parks fund to pay for infrastructure improvements like the Second Street connection, Fjell said.
The parks sales tax revenue can’t pay for any of the YMCA improvements, because it’s a private, dues-paying organization, Fjell said. It could be used on the parking lot for the public library, but using the sales tax would be faster than waiting for Parks funds, Fjell said.
Extending Second Street all the way through Kemper could easily cost $1 million from the city’s gaming fund, or funds from the parks and capital improvement sales taxes, said Fjell.
The city plans to build it in smaller chunks as it can pay for them, rather than borrowing money up front. It could take a long time to finish the library parking lot if it’s included as a part of that process, she said.
The library parking lot accounts for less than 10 percent of the overall project, but Abele said it makes sense to package it with the YMCA improvements because of the potential for the two organizations to collaborate. Everyone who comes into Boonville to shop pays the city’s sales taxes, so it seemed like the best way to generate funding for the project, Abele said.
The gaming and CIP funds are often used to fund large capital projects, but with the decline in admissions and gambling at the Isle of Capri-Boonville, gaming revenues have dropped 11 percent since 2015.
They still generate more than $3 million a year from the city, but that’s much less than it brought in a decade ago, and the city doesn’t know how far those revenues will decline, Fjell said. The city has started shifting over major projects into other funds, including having the ratepayer-supported water and wastewater funds pay for their own improvements.
The gaming, parks and CIP funds will likely pay for other parts of the Kemper redevelopment, including demolishing K and D Barracks and extending Second Street, Fjell said.
The city has to remove asbestos from D Barracks before tearing it down, just as it had to with K Barracks. The city has spent $80,767 abating the administration building, and a grant paid for the $170,000 abatement of K Barracks. D Barracks is larger than both of those buildings, but Fjell said she expects abating D Barracks to cost less than K Barracks, about $130-150,000. K Barracks had a boiler room that was especially filled with asbestos, which made abatement more expensive, she said.
Asbestos would likely need to be removed from Academic Hall before it is renovated for the YMCA, but Fjell said it’s not as much as the other buildings. Academic Hall and D Barracks could probably be combined as the city applies for grants to aid the abatement, she said. Right now, the proposed $4 million renovation of Academic Hall includes a rough estimate for abating asbestos, but abatement and demolition of D Barracks would be separate from the new sales tax.
Since the city owns the Kemper buildings, it will be in charge of hiring contractors for the parking lot and renovations to Johnson Field House and Academic Hall. The projects are large, so the city will have to open them to sealed bids, Fjell said. The city has a provision in it’s bidding code that it should take bids from Boonville businesses if they’re within $1,000 or 1 percent of the next-highest bid.
The city doesn’t get a lot of bids from Boonville contractors for projects this big, Fjell said. The main contractor could hire local subcontractors.
“A lot of pieces often come from local businesses, whether it be windows or curb and gutter work,” Fjell said.
How would Boonville’s sales tax compare to other cities?
The sales tax rate in Boonville is currently 8.225 percent, including the state 4.225 percent and Cooper County 2 percent sales taxes. If the ⅞ sales tax passes in August, that rate will rise to 9.1 percent.
With the Kemper sales tax, Boonville shoppers would pay $4.55 in sales tax for every $50 spent for the next 5 years, about 44 cents more than the current rate.
Here’s how Boonville would compare to some other cities in the area, not including special taxing districts:
Sales tax rate
Boonville already has a high sales tax rate relative to nearby cities. Only Moberly currently has a higher rate of the 8 cities shown above. After five years, the ⅞ cent tax would be removed. It doesn’t automatically go on the ballot for reapproval like the CIP sales tax does. Voters will decide whether to renew the half-cent CIP sales tax next April.