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Property tax increase on the ballot for Excelsior Springs residents

June 1, 2018 – In a special City Council session on Tuesday, May 29, the decision to include a 30-cent property tax increase on the ballot was made. Residents of Excelsior Springs will be asked to consider a 30-cent property tax levy per $100, to be used for museum purposes, which is scheduled for August 7, 2018. Property taxes are based on the assessed value of the property, which, for Clay County residential property, is 19% of the market value.

“We have discussed the needs of the Excelsior Springs Historic Museum and the needs of the historic Hall of Waters and, without financial assistance, we are unable to properly maintain these two buildings that are so important to our community. Due to the architectural character of the Hall of Waters, we consider the building itself to be worthy as a museum,” wrote City Manager Molly McGovern to the City Council.

“The tax would provide funds that could be dedicated to improving both the Hall of Waters and museum, and could also support operating expenses of either building as needed. Additionally, as the statute permits, tax revenues could be used for museum purposes. While the statute states the purposes of this tax includes hospitals and public health, at this time, our intention is to focus only on museum purposes,” McGovern explained.

Currently, the City spends $104,000 from General Funds Revenue for upkeep of the Hall of Waters, and an additional $6,000 annually to support the Excelsior Springs Museum. When the Hall of Waters needs more than just general upkeep and maintenance, the Capital Improvement Plan (CIP) Sales Tax is the only source of revenue. If the museum, which is privately owned and operated by a private non-for-profit, currently relies solely on fundraising for major repairs. A contract the museum holds with the City makes it eligible for funding through the proposed tax levy.

“The Hall of Waters is an architectural icon. Both buildings support our Heritage Tourism, which is one of our Economic Development Strategies, supporting jobs and private investment in the downtown,” said McGovern. “The Museum is more than a beautiful building. It is the reservoir for our history. It supports family and building research done by many residents and visitors.”

The City has completed a Facility Plan for the Hall of Waters, in five separate phases based on their timing. Phase I, which is immediate need, is structural issues, with an estimated cost of $1,170,000. Phase II includes leasable space, lighting, HVAC, ductwork, and pumps, and will be needed in two to five years, with a $3.4 million price tag. Phase III, needed in two to five years as well, will include exterior cleaning, windows, concrete work and stonework, with an estimated cost of $2,886,000. Phase IV, needed in 10 years, will concentrate again on leasable space, the pool, balcony, an event space, lighting and windows, with an estimated cost of $4.1 million. Phase V, needed after ten years, will focus on the Well Room and spa, at $1.9 million. The total estimated cost for the Hall of Waters Facility Plan is an estimated $13.6 million.

The proposed 30-cent property tax increase will generated an approximated $462,000 annually. Additional funding assistance will come from various sources, including Historic Tax Credits and other economic development grants. Further financial assistance will be tied go job creation and private investment.

As a third-class city, Excelsior Springs has the authority to levy this tax under RSMO 94.070(1)(2), and under 94.070(2), the levy in Excelsior Springs is 30 cents. The state statute allows the tax to support hospitals, public health, and museum purposes. The current tax levy is currently proposed to be used only for museum purposes. To pass, it will require a simple majority ballot.

By Samantha Kilgore •

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