By James Neal
CNHI News Service
Enid city commissioners approved two measures Thursday aimed at raising $50 million to renovate and upgrade city parks.
The $50 million parks plan calls for building two new city parks, one on the east side and one downtown, and repairing or upgrading all of the city’s existing neighborhood parks.
Proposals before the commission Thursday called for raising $20 million by increasing the city sales tax rate by one-half cent for five years, and pay for $30 million in general obligation bonds by extending an existing 7 mill ad valorem tax. The 7 mill ad valorem tax previously was enacted to fund city bridge improvements.
Commissioners were presented with two agenda items related to the plan Thursday: an amendment to the municipal tax code to accommodate the proposals, and another ordinance that specifies the ballot terms and calls an election on the proposals for March 5.
Allan Brooks, of Oklahoma City-based Public Finance Law Group, addressed the commissioners before Thursday’s vote.
Brooks said the amendment to the city tax code would add the one-half cent sales tax effective immediately, “subject to the approval of the voters in the March 5 election.”
If the increase in sales tax rate is approved by voters, the additional sales tax will not be collected until July 1, 2013, and will automatically expire on June 30, 2018, Brooks said.
Regarding the general obligation bonds, Brooks said the agenda item before the commission Thursday would formally call the March 5 election, and set forth wording of the two ballot questions to be set before voters.
The commissioners voted unanimously, with all commissioners present, to approve both agenda items.
The ballot questions before voters on March 5 split the parks plan funding into two parts: the five-year increase in sales tax rate by one-half cent to raise $20 million; and the issue of $30 million in general obligation bonds.
If approved by voters, the combined $50 million in funding would provide for repairs and upgrades to existing parks and construction of two new city parks.
The majority of the parks plan would be funded by the $30 million in bond issues. According to the city proposition, $21 million of the $30 million would be split between construction of two new city parks and upgrades to existing neighborhood parks.
The $21 million would represent more than 70 percent of the bond issue, meeting the statutory requirement that at least 70 percent of city bonds be earmarked for specific projects.
The largest development in the bond plan would be a new park at 30th and Randolph, which would include “softball fields, soccer fields, football fields, outdoor basketball courts, playgrounds, a skate park, picnic shelters, restrooms and concession facilities,” at a cost of $13.4 million.
A new park would be located in the city’s central business district, “with lighting and speakers, a decorative water feature, site furnishings and landscaping,” at a cost of about $820,000.
The remaining $6.8 million would be split between improvement projects at all of the city’s neighborhood parks.
Brooks told commissioners the 30 percent of the general obligation bonds not specifically earmarked in the plan would give the commission flexibility in meeting contractors’ bids and project costs.
The remainder of the unspecified bond funds and the $20 million in sales tax funds would be utilized for parks improvements beyond those specified to meet the bond requirements, possibly including addition of a water feature at the 30th and Randolph park and additions to the city’s trail system.