If McMinnville officials decide not to embark on a multi-million dollar renovation project at the Civic Center, a tax decrease could be in store.
That was the opinion expressed by city Finance Committee chair Everett Brock during a recent meeting.
“If we don’t spend the money on doing projects like this,” said Brock of Civic Center renovation, “then we don’t need the money. Let’s lower the tax rate and work at it that way. The only reason to have that money is to run the city. If we don’t need the money to run the city, then let’s not take it from people.”
Brock’s comments come as city officials are considering HFR Design as the architect for a proposed Civic Center renovation. The city is considering hiring the company to produce a full set of architectural plans and a bid package so the city can go out for bids and obtain actual costs.
According to Parks and Recreation director Scott McCord, HFR will bill the city each month for work completed.
“There is no upfront payment and they charge month-to-month and they only charge for work that’s been done,” said McCord. “If it hasn’t been done, they don’t bill for it. If we decide to cancel at any point, they are only going to charge us up to that point.”
Before spending any money, Brock would first like to know if there’s a consensus among board members to proceed with Civic Center renovation.
“First, we have to decide if there’s a will on this board to do what we’ve talked about doing with the Civic Center,” said Brock. “I think that’s No. 1. No. 2, if we do, do we have the money to pay for it?”
Brock says he doesn’t believe an estimate of $4.8 million is realistic, but if it is, the city can fund the project using the money returned to the city from the county from an agreement over local option sales tax which returns 4 percent of an estimated $2 million over a 25-year period.
The city could end the 2015-16 fiscal year with up to $5 million in excess revenue. Brock says if the city doesn’t spend that money on a project, consideration should be given to lowering the property tax rate because of the budget surplus.
“We have between $4 million to $5 million we’re going to end the year with. That’s two straight years we’ve ended the year with that kind of money.”
Brock said if the Civic Center renovation were to cost $4.5 million, with a 20-year note at 2 percent in-terest, the yearly debt service would be $285,000, which he says the city can afford.
“What’s left is the will do to it. If the will is not there to do it, then we might as well stop right now,” said Brock. “If we want to ease on down the road and find out how much this is going to cost, then it’s obviously going to cost us some money to find that out.”
Alderman Mike Neal asked if the annual loss of property tax revenue from Saint Thomas River Park Hospital is going to be around the same amount as what’s being brought into the city through its agreement with the county.
“It is, but the money from the county goes up every year. It goes up by about $80,000 to $100,000 eve-ry year depending on the sales tax,” said Brock. “Even with the loss of property tax revenue from River Park, I’m still not concerned about where the money is coming from. Again, there has to be a will on this board to spend that money.
There is work that needs to be done, says Parks and Recreation Committee chair Ben Newman.
“When you walk about the Civic Center, it’s obvious parts of it are in bad shape. Parts of it are in de-cent shape. I wouldn’t say any of it is in great shape. There are parts that really need to be touched and there are parts that must be touched. There are things that need to be done.”
A second option for funding, said Brock, would be to phase in renovation over several years and fund it internally without borrowing funds, if the consensus of board members is not to borrow funds.
The measure was tabled until McCord can generate a list of work, prioritized from most important to least important, and an estimate on cost of each.