To absolutely no one’s surprise, the Branson board of aldermen voted to put a one half of one percent “public safety” (Fire and Police) retail sales tax on the ballot for the November 7, 2017 election. It was also no surprise that there wasn’t a provision in the ordinance stating that none of the tax would be used to pay off the Tax Increment Financing (TIF) for “Branson Landing” and “Branson Hills.”
In “Branson Landing” the city does not get one penny in sales tax because it all goes to pay the “Branson Landing TIF.” In “Branson Hills,” it gets 50% of its sales tax with the other 50% going to pay off the “Branson Hills TIF.” Without a provision in the ordinance protecting the Fire and Police Tax from being used to pay off the TIFs, 50% of the tax collected in “Branson Landing” and “Branson Hills” could be used to pay off TIFs rather than for the Fire and Police purposes for which the voters approved the tax.
Voter’s approved a “County Jail” and “Tourism” retail sales tax. The city of Branson has been getting 50% of the taxes, millions of dollars, paid at “Branson Landing” and “Branson Hills” to pay off its TIFs.
To an Ole Seagull, and hopefully those who are voting for the tax, it is imperative that the total proceeds of the taxes collected go for “Fire and Police” purposes and not to pay off TIFs. It’s not a matter of if additional funding needed for things such as a fire station in the “Welk Resort” area; a new police station more centrally located and providing our officers with a professional work environment; increase in police and fire personal, or a myriad of other things. It is! It’s making sure that the tax proceeds are used for those purposes and to the benefit of Branson’s residents; not to pay off Branson’s TIFs.
“Seagull what do you mean ‘to the benefit of Branson’s residents.’” “Call him crazy, but having an adequately staffed and equipped Fire and Police Department, located in the best physical position possible to respond to emergencies involving residents, is a huge benefit to them.” In Branson, it seems that most of the governments emphasis is on tourism and its development. There’s seemingly little concern for benefits to its residents.
This is one case where there is a direct benefit for both. It’s why, to an Ole Seagull, it is imperative that the total proceeds of the taxes collected go for “Fire and Police” purposes and not to pay off TIFs.
“But Seagull, wasn’t there a recent change in the TIF laws saying, that beginning August 28, 2014, if the voters in a taxing district vote to approve an increase in such taxing district’s sales tax that it shall not be used to pay off a TIF without the consent of such taxing district.’” “There absolutely was!”
“Didn’t the alderman say that they had no intention of consenting to the tax being used to pay for the TIF.” “Believe that was the case.” “Then what’s the problem?”
In an ordinance containing many “WHEREAS provisions,” there is no mention of that intention. What would it have taken to have a provision stating, “WHERAS, the provisions of 99.845.3 RSMO apply to this tax, should this tax be approved by the voters, the city of Branson will not consent to any portion of the tax proceeds being considered economic activity taxes subject to deposit into a special TIF allocation fund.”
More importantly, it’s a “win-win” in terms of its potential for getting the tax approved. Does it take a Solomon to figure out that there’s more voters who would vote for the tax with the provision in it than would vote against it because it’s in?
“Why do you think they left it out?” “Don’t have a clue, well perhaps a clue, but it certainly wasn’t because they wanted to do everything they could to ensure voter approval of the tax.”
There is time to address the issue. The board is going to amend the ordinance, prior to its second reading, at their next meeting for something else. At the same time, they could add a provision to address the TIF issue.
“Ah, Seagull, do you think there’s a prayer of that happening?” “Who knows, but ‘hope springs eternal.’”