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Citizens for Quality Parks to promote the passage of eighth-cent sales tax

A campaign committee, Citizens for Quality Parks, has been formed to promote the passage of a one-eighth-of-a-cent sales tax intended to provide an independent and dedicated funding source for St. Louis County parks, according to an announcement by County Executive Charlie Dooley and County Council Chairman Skip Mange.

Dooley and Mange are serving as co-chairmen of the Citizens for Quality Parks Committee, according to a news release.

The initiative, called Proposition P, will appear on the Tuesday, April 6, ballot. The County Council voted unanimously to place the measure on the ballot.

Dr. Peter Raven of the Missouri Botanical Garden will serve as the committee's treasurer. Other committee members include Jim Baker, St. Louis County Chief of Police Col. Ron Battelle, Robert Blitz, Richard Daley, Harold Goodman, Robert Hall, Kathy Higgins, Glenn Jamboretz, Richard Jensen, Joanne Kohn, Don Musick, Sandra Riley, Jim Schloeman and Genie Zakrzewski, director of the county Parks and Recreation Department.

In the release, Dooley stated, "The purpose of Proposition P is to ensure the continuation of a quality countywide park system by providing a dedicated funding source that will provide the operational resources for our parks for decades into the future.

"St. Louis County Parks serves all of the residents of our county with a wonderful system of parks, trails and recreational complexes and is regarded as one of the finest in the country. We must take the steps necessary to insure that our residents continue to have the highest quality system possible available to them,'' Dooley added.

Mange stated in the release, "The passage of Proposition P will eliminate our need for being continually dependent on the general fund to pay for our parks.''

In 2004, the general fund transferred $8.5 million into the parks fund to meet the operating needs of the countywide system.

Passage of Proposition P will free up important revenues for other essential and critical county services, most notably our public safety department, according to Mange.

"Park maintenance, operations and improvements should not have to compete with the Police Department, prosecuting attorney, justice administration and justice services for shrinking general fund revenues,'' Mange stated.

Battelle stated, "This new revenue will help the parks system and also provide much-needed revenue for the public safety functions of St. Louis County.''

The County Council chairman stated, "Passage of Proposition P is expected to generate about $16.5 million of dedicated funds that can only be used for our parks.''

It is anticipated that about $9.5 million of the new funds will be directed to ongoing operations and maintenance of the regional park system. Another $3 million a year would be used for enhancement projects such as pavilions, playgrounds, picnic facilities and trails throughout the county parks system. The remaining $4 million will be used to finance the annual payments on bonds that will be sold to construct the improvements outlined in the parks department's master plans.

In the release, Zakrzewski noted that "even with the transfers from the general fund in 2003 and 2004 it was necessary to make reductions in parks' personnel, hours of operation and programs, along with the deferral of maintenance and capital improvements. Without the new revenues that this ballot issue will provide, further reductions, including the possible closing of parks, may be necessary in 2005. We just can't let that happen. County residents of all ages depend on our park system.''

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