Today I'm going from commenting on what has happened in the news to predicting the news of the future. See if you think I might be right:
As the year 2021 wound down, the Rolla City Council and the city administration announced to the residents of Rolla that the eighth-cent parks and recreation sales tax approved by voters way back in April 2014 must be replaced in the April 2022 municipal election by a permanent quarter-cent sales tax.
The eighth-cent tax was part of a quarter-cent sales tax package deal the voters approved for parks and recreation. It had replaced a half-cent sales tax approved way back in time, in the previous century, as a matter of fact.
Nobody remembered why there had been a half-cent sales tax and why it had ended. Nobody remembered why there was a quarter-cent sales tax later and nobody understood why half of it was ending now and why city officials wanted it to continue permanent with an increase.
It was much too complicated.
Somebody dug up a copy of the ballot from April 2014 and it said this: "Shall the municipality of Rolla, Missouri, impose a sales tax of one-quarter (1/4) of one percent for eight years beginning October 1, 2014, reduced to one-eighth (1/8) of one percent beginning October 1, 2022, for the purpose of funding local parks and recreation?"
Everybody scratched their heads and asked, "Why did they decide that half of it would sunset?"
There were some letters to the editor from people who said the council and administration had promised that the half that was sunsetting would be spent on capital improvements, such as playground equipment, while the other half would be spent on operations. And that operations half, the letters claimed, was to be divided equally between the parks and The Centre.
A few people thought they remembered it had been like that for a couple of years, but the city council and the administration said, "There were never any promises made as to how the money would be spent. We said we would try, we would do our best, our goal was to spend the money on playground equipment, parking lots and restrooms, but things have changed."
The problem was that the $200,000 to $250,000 that had been transferred from the general fund to the park fund had to be cut in order to beef up the public safety departments. The police needed more money because of increased crime and increased traffic. Some of that increase in traffic led to more accidents, and that meant firefighters had to take their trucks to fire scenes, too. Also, more people were accidentally setting fire to their houses with outdoor fire pits and outdoor wood furnaces, despite the strict regulations.
The transfer diminished, so the money from the sales tax had to be channeled away from capital improvements to operations and maintenance of the parks and The Centre.
Page 2 of 2 - Now, in 2022, the playground equipment and the parking lots and the bathrooms still needed replacement or repair. The grass needed to be mowed. City officials said the way to absolutely assure that would be done would be to replace that sunsetting eighth-cent with a quarter-cent tax.
"You'll really only be paying an eighth of a cent more on your purchases. That's just 12.5 cents for every $100 purchase you make. Everyone can afford that," the city officials said.
But the naysayers, the opponents, the people with long memories said, "But you told us back then that if we would support the parks and recreation tax, the playground equipment would be replaced, there would be bathrooms and other improvements. That hasn't happened."
At a public meeting, one man said, "Nobody promised those things. And if they did, they were wrong. So get over it."
Other people who had not been here when the sales tax was adopted said, "I moved here from the city because of the parks. We have nice walking trails and beautiful parks, and we want to keep them that way. Good parks bring in industry. I'm voting for the tax. Besides, if it saves the life of just one child, it will be worth it."
The words "Get over it" and "Good parks bring in industry" and "If it saves the life of just one child, it will be worth it" caught on and were repeated wherever and whenever people met.
And when the election was held, the eighth-cent tax was replaced with a permanent quarter cent tax, giving parks and The Centre a full half-cent tax.
That's my prediction. Cut out this column, write the date on it and put it somewhere you can find eight years to see how right I was.