The City of Waukee held a public forum on Thursday, Oct. 26 at City Hall to talk about what the Local Option Sales and Service Tax revenue would be used for if it is passed during the Nov. 7 election. If collectively passed in Waukee, Clive, Urbandale and West Des Moines, an additional one-cent tax will be imposed on sales and services in Waukee, and other cities in Dallas County that pass the issue to be spent on city services, improvements and tax relief.
In Waukee, public safety as well as parks and recreation would be the beneficiaries of the revenue. Of the $2 million Waukee would receive annually, the city would use about $1 million per year to help finance a $10.8 million park and trail improvement plan, while the city will escrow the other half to offset the future tax increases that would be necessary to finance a second public safety facility, which would open in 2025.
Waukee Chief of Police, John Quinn and Fire Chief, Clint Robinson, were both on hand to talk about the need for a second public safety facility in the city.
“The problem with this situation is that building was built in 1998… and as the community grows, so grows the staff over at the police department,” Quinn said. “So with that, there’s really no room left inside the public safety building, at least on the police department side.”
With a 24-hour staff, Robinson says that the fire department side of the facility is also out of space when it comes to lockers, showers and places for the staff to sleep.
Over the years, Waukee has seen big increases in their calls for services from the public safety departments. The Fire Department went from 707 calls in 2006 to 1,367 in 2016 while the Police Department went for 4,678 in 2006 to 8,314 in 2016.
Matt Jermier, Waukee Parks and Recreation Director, was also on hand to talk about the impact on the parks and trails improvement projects if the tax should pass.
The Parks and Recreation Department has created a master plan, which includes eight new parks. If the LOSST measure passes, the master plan will be completed in four years (2022), but if it doesn’t, it will take 13 years (2031).
The Parks and Recreation Department currently operates on an annual budget of $300,000, which the city says is not enough to meet the demand for new park facilities in Waukee.
The first park in the master plan is Fox Creek Park Phase II, which would include, among other things, a splash pad, which is something that is “constantly” requested through their surveys.
“Splash pads are great, they’re multi-generational,” Jermier said. “Grandparents can take young kids there and not have to worry about drowning.
“As far as staffing levels, you don’t have to staff them. They’re all push-button operated.”
Jermier said that they could be open from as early as the middle of May until as late as the end of September since they will not have to worry about lifeguard shortages.
Fox Creek Park would also include pickle ball courts.
The master plan that the city has developed includes developing higher-quality parks for its residents.
“It’s easy to develop a park just by putting a play structure in and maybe a couple of parking stalls and a couple of benches and calling it a park,” Jermier said. “That’s not the quality of life that our residents are requesting that we do here as it relates to our parks.”
During the public forum, residents were able to ask questions and voice their opinions and there were people in favor of it, as well as people against it in attendance.
“First, I want to say thanks to everyone who came up with the plan. I love it, I want all of it, plus more done, I’m just against the tax,” said Waukee resident Shelly Jessen.
Another resident spoke out in favor of the Local Option Sales and Service Tax.
“The nice thing about this option sales tax is it’s not just our taxes, it’s other people coming into our community, spending their money here that they’re getting taxed on, which helps us in the long run,” said the resident. “So we’re actually generating more income.”
The Local Option Sales and Services Tax will be on the ballot, along with the City Election, on Nov. 7. For the tax to take effect in Waukee, the issue must pass in Waukee, West Des Moines, Clive and Urbandale together.
More information on the Waukee Parks and Recreation master plan, and the use of the Local Option Sales and Service Tax Revenue can be found at http://www.waukee.org/872/One-Cent-Sales-Tax-Vote. Also found there is the slide show presentation with the information.