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Council eyes fate of fall Rec Center improvement vote

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Carroll could have a modernized and expanded Recreation Center by October 2022, one with a second gym, elevated indoor walking track and extended and updated pool and other enhancements, if voters approve two measures in September generating $13.38 million for the project.

But those measures may not make a September ballot as Carroll City Council members Tuesday will discuss whether to proceed with any action on the Rec Center during the COVID-19 pandemic and recovery, a time in which local-option sales tax revenues are expected to fall and taxpayers in general may not have the appetite for discretionary city ventures as they are tightening financial belts at home.

Or, with favorable interest rates, contractors hungry for work and a desire for a return to normalcy and refreshed interest in public and group events, the fall may be the ideal time to hold the vote on an improved Rec Center.

Waiting could increase the price tag to more than $14 million, city officials project.

“It’s a policy decision for the Council to make,” City Manager Mike Pogge-Weaver said.

The Council is expected to discuss the matter during a 5:15 p.m. meeting Tuesday.

Council members in late 2019 directed city officials to develop a plan to a hold a referendum for $5.62 million in bonds, or debt financing, for the Rec Center, with the remainder coming from the local-option sales tax (LOST). Officials expect to use $600,000 to $700,000 annually over 20 years from the roughly $1.5 million the city generates each year in revenue from the 1-cent local sales tax.

Funds would pay for Rec Center construction and long-term financing. A vote to extend the local-option sales tax, possibly without a sunset, could be on the same ballot in September with the referendum on the Recreation Center.

The referendum requires a 60 percent super-majority to pass; the LOST must clear 50 percent.

The local-option sales tax, first passed in connection with the ongoing Corridor of Commerce work to improve the business district, is set to expire in December of 2023.

City officials expect the LOST vote to authorize the use of the tax proceeds with 25 percent going to property tax relief and 75 percent available for any legal purpose — the current language.

City of Carroll voters in August 2012 overwhelmingly approved extension of the 1 percent local-option sales tax for another 10 years. The ballot measure passed with 71 percent of the vote — 555-229. It carried all four wards in the city handily.

On May 13, 2003, the local-option sales tax passed by just 48 votes in the City of Carroll — 1,229-1,181. The ballot language required the city to use 25 percent of the local-option sales tax money for property-tax relief, with 75 percent available for other city business. That language again appeared on the ballot in 2012.

The first local-option sales tax election was held July 2, 2002, and the results in the City of Carroll were 998 yes and 1,481 no.

The Rec Center project is not expected to increase the debt-service levy portion of resident and business’s property tax bills.

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