Taxes, services are all part of roundtable talk
SIKESTON - For a second time, city officials and civic-minded residents gathered for a roundtable meeting.
Mayor Mike Marshall said Tuesday's meeting was city officials' effort at gathering input from the public about what the city is doing right or wrong.
City Manager Doug Friend offered a powerpoint summary of the city's financial condition, noting that the city is presently operating at a $400,000 deficit using reserve money to cover the shortfall.
The meeting and a survey distributed to attendees were intended to help city officials discern the community's priorities, Friend said. "We're in the business of providing services and that's where the money goes," he said.
Taxes are the city's "primary source of revenue," according to Friend. City Clerk Carroll Couch said sales tax provides roughly twice as much revenue as property taxes.
Friend said the city is now offering enough incentives for employees that it is no longer a "training ground" for other places. "Right now we have 63 PSOs," he said.
Resident Norman Woods said the city's ability to tax relies on the perception of fairness in distributing services as well as results.
Friend said the city is trying to inform the public, most recently exploring the use of the city Website and an e-mailed newsletter.
Resident Steve McPheeters discussed the benefits of the Sikeston Area Higher Education Center, recommending the city look at adding eight classrooms.
McPheeters also advised looking at a regional economic development concept as many of the city's successes, such as SAHEC, "have been regional in nature."
Asked about the airport, Marshall said that when big companies come to check Sikeston out, they don't come by car on the highway. "They fly into the airport on these big private jets," he said. "It is the first place that corporations see when they come into town."
Marshall said after reviewing the airport's needs, it won't cost the city as much as he thought.
The Board of Municipal Utilities has agreed to help with landing lights, Marshall said, and he would like to see the Sikeston runway be the brightest between St. Louis and Memphis.
Building a concrete apron is also very important and may be achieved with the help of grants, Marshall said. He recalled that during one of the hottest days, a private jet was left on the apron for four or five hours. "It literally sunk into the asphalt out there," Marshall said.
Mike Bohannon, Land Clearance Redevelopment Authority board member, fielded questions regarding the LCRA.
The LCRA presently has $125,000 in the bank and is hoping to secure a Community Development Block Grant of $150,000.
"You're going to see something happen," he promised.
Scott County Economic Developer Jim Schwaninger said that the city should look at ways to help existing businesses expand in addition to seeking out new businesses.
Paster David Craig of the Powerhouse of God advised the Ministerial Alliance has recognized churches had become "bogged down" with taking care of social needs and resolved to return to taking care of the city's spiritual needs.
Only 20 percent of area resident attend church, Craig said. "We're weak on our spiritual side."
Resident Mike Partin asked if there was the possibility of revenue through curbside recycling.
Friend said that some communities have been successful in this area while others have not. In Sikeston, they found the cost of recycling to be higher than not recycling. "So it became sort of a dollar and cent thing," he said.
Resident Troy Wilson presented the possibility of merging Sikeston and Miner as the benefits of a larger community and economy with a broader and more diverse tax base "far outweigh the naysayers."
Marshall said although no one had brought it up, the city's code enforcement could be improved. "We've got to do a better job," he said, adding that "properties that the city owns have to set the example."