I usually love sunsets, but ...
Kennett voters finally decide the fate of the much debated half cent sales tax in a special election Aug. 8. As everybody should know by now, 1/8 of a cent goes to senior services, and the rest is earmarked to storm water projects around town.
To borrow a Beatlesí line, itís been a ďlong and winding road.Ē The City Council has voted twice to put the thing on the ballot. The second time, during Tuesdayís meeting, was to add a sunset clause. After 10 years, the tax is gone, unless voters decide it or something similar is still needed.
Some Council members said Tuesday that theyíve heard from people who say they want the sunset or they wonít support it. I donít doubt that, however, I wouldnít be one of them. Iím not in favor of the sunset, and the reason is not the 3/8 part but the 1/8 part. Senior services are tied to storm water. A lot of those projects may be completed in 10 years, getting our terrible drainage problems in Kennett more under control.
The need for senior services, however, will continue. In fact, our town is likely to get older, not younger so the need for those services Ė from the OAKS and others Ė is going up exponentially. In 10 years, Iíll be 68 years old. I doubt very much Iíll be ready to pack it in, so a place like the one planned by OAKS Administrator Laura Ford and her supporters appeals to me. The money from the sales tax, if approved, will dry up. That might leave those services in limbo. Once we get used to a certain income, isnít it hard to go backwards?
Whatís going to happen in 10 years? I could be wrong, but I donít think the Council is very concerned about that. They need money now and what happens 10 years from now is not as important. Ford voiced concern Tuesday night about sunsetting the tax, but at this point she and her supporters have little choice but to support and campaign for the taxís passage. They need funds now, too. Other avenues havenít worked out, and future ones may or may not lead to any kind of funding. They are reluctant, but they are stuck.
In reality the Cityís partnership with the OAKS is necessary for both parties. Both need funds. Iím not sure the City can pass a sales tax on its own. Ford and her supporters have proven they can run a successful sales tax campaign. As I told one councilman a few weeks ago, the City needs the seniors more than the seniors need the City.
Itís sort of a shotgun marriage. Both would rather stand on their own. But circumstances have brought them together for better or worse.
The sunset clause in the ordinance now bothers me a lot. It makes me more adamant that the City should have allowed the senior services tax (at the legal amount) stand on its own. Senior services donít need a 10 year sunset. Iím also still upset that the City may benefit somehow from how it bungled last fallís vote.
We must, however, deal with what is, not what we wish would be. I am going on record now that I am in favor of the tax and will vote for it. I will hold my nose, but I will vote for it. This whole thing has been handled very badly in my mind, and I feel the City is holding seniors hostage a bit, forcing this sunset clause on them.
Yet, I understand the need for storm water projects. Good grief every time it rains I canít drive down a lot of downtown area streets. Thatís been true all my life, and I would like to see those issues become a memory.
Ultimately, I hope 10 years down the road that whoever our leaders are, that they and the voters of Kennett will continue to see the need to fund senior services. Perhaps by then, the need will be even clearer than it is now.
I urge you to support the tax. Letís finally get this done once and for all.
Until next week . . .