Council hopefuls: Low tax revenues a major concern

March 28, 2013

Turning around sales tax and keeping up with infrastructure problems are on the minds of the Sedalia City Council Ward 4 candidates as they face off next week in the April 2 municipal election.

Incumbent Ken Norton, vying for his 15th term, and former business owner Larry Stevenson both said dwindling sales tax revenues are a chief concern.

“Sales tax numbers are the most important thing right now,” Norton said. “The bulk of the city’s revenue comes from sales tax, so without it we can’t pay for all those other things that are important — keeping up streets and sidewalks especially.”

Norton said the economy is to blame for the drop in revenue, but that the city is on the right track promoting tourism and bringing business to the area.

Stevenson agreed, saying Sedalia needs to attract more business to raise revenues.

“We probably don’t need more restaurants; we need industry,” he said. “If we have a large company, that’s great, but personally I’d rather see a small company hire 50 people than a large company hiring 500. That way, if something happens, 500 people aren’t being laid off.”

In addition to jobs, maintaining the city’s infrastructure was on the top of the priority list for Norton. Last year, the council made the repair of the Washington Avenue bridge and building a new Fire Station No. 2 the two top projects for its budget year.

“This year, since we don’t have anything major looming on the horizon, I think we really need to focus on staying ahead of infrastructure problems, things like streets, sidewalks and sewers,” Norton said. “We always need more money to fix streets. I think right now (the city) is spending about what it spent last year on taking care of those problems. If I had my way, we’d allocate more money to that.”

Looking ahead, Stevenson, who was on the council for one year in 1977, said he’d like to see the city build a community center.

“I have friends who drive to Warrensburg to take advantage of their center because of its walking track and indoor pool,” he said. “I think we need something like that here; however, we need to look at how feasible it would actually be to get that here.”

Stevenson said he’s “dead set against” creating a half- or quarter-cent sales tax to pay for a community center, saying membership fees and business sponsors should handle the bulk of the expenses.

“(Funding the center) would be a problem,” he said. “We’d have to research the best way to do it. The same thing with a public golf course, which is something else I’d like to see. I think we need a golf course here, but we’d have to do a study to know if we could support that or not.”

Both Norton and Stevenson credited city staff with building and maintaining its $9 million reserve fund.

“I say, ‘If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,’ it as far as the budget is concerned,” Stevenson said. “I think the city is doing a great job, but it’s time for some new faces on the council.”

Norton, who will finish his 28th year as a councilman this month, said he’s been an integral part of council.

“We need someone who is going to work for the city, not someone who will come down and say ‘I want this or that and I want it now,’ ” he said. “People talk about bringing new ideas to the table, but I’ve been reelected 14 times; I think my work speaks for itself.”