Residents give input on sales tax proposals

Published on Thursday, 6 March 2014 23:46 - Written by Betty Waters bwaters@tylerpaper.com

Residents made suggestions during an open house Thursday for how future City of Tyler half-cent sales tax revenue could be spent on capital improvement projects.

The open house at Tyler Rose Garden Center provided the public an opportunity to give input into the process of the city deciding how to spend future receipts from the half-cent sales tax.

The open house was part of the Half Cent Sales Tax Board’s annual call for proposed projects to be submitted from Feb. 11 through March 31 by residents, community leaders and city staff.

It was the third annual open house for the Half Cent Sales Tax Program, which was approved by voters in 1995 as a way to fund capital infrastructure projects.

Kathy Parker, accompanied by three neighbors, presented what she called their “grave concerns” about West Mud Creek eroding their property on Old Bullard Road south of Fair Street.

“We are afraid we are going to lose our homes,” she said, appealing to the city and the Half Cent Sales Tax Board to concrete the sides and bottom of the creek for about 800 linear feet to shore it up and stop the erosion.

Chris Leach told representatives of the city parks department that he would like to see more parks in District 5 because at the moment there’s really only one softball field.

Leach said that part of town doesn’t have anything for families to go to, and he wants to see more parks and activities for people.

Rodney Witcher, who serves on the city’s traffic safety board, said he attended in order to see what’s planned on the next cycle of the half-cent sales tax program.

He expressed surprised pleasure upon learning that one project will go by his house on Martin Luther King Boulevard involving improvements to lighting, signals, signage and streets in the Texas College district.

Attendance was light, Amy Downey of the engineering department acknowledged. But she said people who came could present suggested projects to city staff in areas of emergency services (fire and police), airport, park department, drainage and the traffic and street department.

The city has used half-cent sales tax revenue in the past to fund such capital improvement projects as the Earl Campbell Parkway and the Fair Plaza Parking Garage now under construction.

City staff will vet the suggestions internally to make sure they are eligible projects for half-sales tax funding, City Engineer Carter Delleney said in an interview prior to the open house, noting there are criteria that need to be met.

If a proposal meets the criteria, then city staff will check to determine whether it is already on the annual work plan for half-cent sales tax projects, Delleney said.

If it’s not, the next step will be to work up information based on the citizens’ request and field observations of whatever the request is, he said.

A one-page report will then be prepared about the justification for the proposed project, where it’s located and the estimated cost for design and construction of the project.

Based on information in the one-page reports, projects will be ranked and placed into a queue for whatever funding is available, Delleney said.

Both the half-cent sales tax board and the city council would have to give approval for a proposed project to go forward, the city engineer said.