Voters will decide whether to approve a property tax increase to fund the construction of the proposed Shawnee Community Center this May. By
The people of Shawnee have awakened. They have joined in opposition to a proposed property tax increase that diverts funds from critical needs to fund a community center halfway between 435 and K-7 — at a cost of $54 million to the taxpayers.
“Vote No – There’s a Better Way Committee” is a committee composed of Shawnee residents of all political stripes. Many involved in our effort disagree on other views, but on this proposal, we stand in solidarity.
While a community center sounds good, there are many problems with the proposal the City Council has put before the voters. With ballots now having arrived in mailboxes, we encourage voters to learn the many reasons we oppose this proposal on our website, BetterWayShawnee.com. Here is a summary:
First, the property tax increase would impact everyone who lives, shops, or owns a business in Shawnee. On top of those taxes, residents must pay membership fees to use the facility — it will cost a family $840 in fees to use the facility according to the rates proposed by the city.
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Second, the cost to the taxpayers is understated in the wording of the ballot question. While the building will cost $38 million, the cost to the taxpayers will be $54 million including interest on the bond payments over 20 years.
Third, despite the tax increase and membership fees, the facility is projected to run an annual shortfall for the first five years. That will require pulling funds from other needs — needs that include $140 million of costs related to pipes and streets. This includes $11 million in critical needs in for “category five” rated storm water pipes, which means the pipes are failed or near-failure. And many full-time employees of the Community Center would earn higher salaries than police officers and firefighters.
Finally, the facility would also be in direct competition with existing small businesses that provide health and wellness services. These businesses pay taxes and generate revenue for our city — they shouldn’t be forced to compete with the city.
There is a better way to serve the wonderful homes and businesses in Shawnee. The city must first address basic needs, including $140 million just for crumbling pipes.
A better way would involve something that does not raise the property tax burden. A better way would be much less costly and would not project shortfalls as far as the city’s eye can see. A better way would involve not diverting funds from resources to pay for critical needs such as roads, pipes, and public safety. A better way would mean not duplicating services already offered by private businesses in Shawnee.
It’s important to remember that the concept of a western Shawnee amenity began with discussions about an outdoor swimming pool — yet over the years that outdoor pool somehow morphed into the proposal voters have before them today.
By defeating this ballot question, Shawnee has the opportunity to embark on a new path that embraces fiscal responsibility, prudent decision making, and a new respect for the people that pay the bills — the people of Shawnee. Respectfully, we encourage our fellow residents to vote no. There is a better way.