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4/20/2006

 
   

Parkville board has testy exchange with county commissionerss
Topic is shortage of road tax revenue, project priorities

by Nick Dupont
Landmark reporter

A frustrated Parkville Board of Aldermen questioned Platte County Commissioners Tuesday night as to why Parkville will be receiving $10,000 less in sales tax revenue promised to voters in 2004.

Platte County 1st District Commissioner Tom Pryor and 2nd district commissioner Jim Plunkett were on hand for the aldermen’s bi-weekly meeting to discuss why a 3/8 cent sales tax collected for county transportation projects may yield almost $10-15 million less than originally projected and reducing monies allocated for road projects of incorporated cities and towns in Tax Increment Financing (TIF) districts.

“This was a ‘present’ left to us by our predecessors,” Pryor said. “There was gross overestimating as to how much money would be collected by this tax. Initially, the calculations were made on a projected 5 percent sales tax increase. In all actuality, 11 percent is what was used (in the calculations). The other issue here is costs of the other road projects like Humphrey’s Bridge were underestimated as well.”

Humphrey’s Bridge was originally projected to cost the county around $800,000. By the time of its completion earlier this year, the amount ballooned to over $2 million. The effect of such unexpected costs takes the million-plus difference and subtracts it from monies to be distributed between other unincorporated projects and municipalities such as Parkville. As a result, Parkville may have to cut out the repair of damaged roads from its budget.

Mayor Kathy Dusenbery asked the commissioners why such drastic hikes in the cost were approved to build a bridge many don’t use or know exists.

“I took a tour and found Humphrey’s bridge,” Dusenbery said. “It goes off to nowhere.”

“We’re getting short-changed because the bridge is coming off the top and our portion of the revenue isn’t what it was before,” said Alderman Marvin Ferguson. “That’s not the commitment we made to the residents of Parkville back when the 3/8 campaign was going on.”

As the discussion began to escalate, so did the aldermen’s frustration with being limited in having say in county affairs.

“We were provided the rules of the tax increase,” said Alderman Marc Sportsman. “Now, only a year or two into it, we hear, ‘oh you have a TIF district and you’re going to be penalized for that.’ I find it difficult to believe that any citizen, whether in an unincorporated area or a municipality being pleased with funding a $2.4 million bridge that goes nowhere.

“We had no say in this. Whenever we wanted to tell the county what we thought should be fixed, we had to almost petition them. Then some grand pooh-bah say ‘this one’s ok, that one’s not ok.’ And then you guys go out and decide what’s best for the county. The overestimating of the tax revenue your predecessors did doesn’t bother me. It’s how it’s being handled now.”

Mayor Dusenbery requested that when mathematical mistakes occur, the county alert smaller cities at a time when monetary errors can be budgeted in advance.

“We need this information when we do our budgets in October,” she said, “which is the same time you all do yours. We need to know then, not after the fact.”

Pryor assured the mayor county plans would be done on the commission’s schedule, not Parkville’s.

“That’s just when we do those projections,” he said. "So that’s when it’s going to be made available to you. That’s how things kind of work. I don’t want this to sound rude, but even though Parkville is a big part of it, all of Platte County is what I take into consideration.”

Tensions peaked when Alderman Dave Rittman pointed out the people of Parkville took all of Platte County into consideration when their voters helped fund the road master plan, and questioned if Parkville would benefit at all from it.

“Is there any single project in the city of Parkville that is going to be funded by this tax?” he said.

“When you guys overlaid Jones-Meyer, I got calls about that,” he said.

Rittman asked again to no avail.

“The projects that you see on those maps are what we are focusing on,” Pryor said.

Rittman asked a third time.

“Let me go back to….,” Pryor began to say when Alderman Dave McCoy interjected.

“Can we get an answer please? I’m tired of all the dancing around it. Is there a project in Parkville that’s going to be funded by the tax or not?”

“Do you see one on the sheet?” said Plunkett.

When the answer came back “no” from several aldermen, Plunkett replied, “Ok then.”

Rittman tried one last time to clarify if anything would be done to restore citizen’s confidence in getting what they ask for.

“So is it safe to say that you as current county commissioners would not return the budget formula back to the way it was represented to our voters?”

“No, sir,” said Plunkett.

Rittman completed the discussion by telling the commissioners that the aldermen and the county had worked on many projects together in the past, and not to view them as the enemy.

“I’m not your problem,” Rittman said.

“I’m not your problem either,” said Plunkett.

“But our voters are,” said Rittman.