Highland City Council will have a special session on at 6 p.m. Monday, Oct. 30 at City Hall to discuss a controversial subject that has been on the council’s table for months.
City Manager Mark Latham said the meeting was called to discuss possible implementation of a business district plan that could raise the city’s sales tax in specific areas on certain retail goods by up to 1 percent for 23 years, without voter approval.
The three new business districts would be as follows:
▪ District A: Northtown and areas along Walnut Street and U.S. Highway 40.
▪ District B: Downtown district including areas along Broadway and Highland Road.
▪ District C: Centered along Frank Watson Parkway, much of which is still undeveloped.
It is estimated that the tax will bring an additional $1 million to the city, which can be used for development and redevelopment purposes within the districts. But the city has also made it clear that the extra funds would likely be used to build a new public safety building for police, fire and EMS purposes; rehabilitation of city current public safety buildings; or some combination of new construction and remodeling.
In the past, estimate are a new public safety building would have around a $14 million price tag. But Latham said that even with a new sales tax, the city could not afford that.
During its meeting Sept. 18, the council voted to table taking any action on creating the business district and/or implementing any new taxes until Nov. 6.
Latham said that this special meeting for Monday was called so council will be able to have an in-depth discussion over what has been discovered in the last six weeks.
Latham also said that it will be a time for the council to discuss whether or not a whole 1 percent sales tax will be needed or if only a fraction of a percent will be enough.
The public will also be allowed to make comment at the meeting.
When the business district plan makes it back onto the agenda next month, the council will have the following options:
▪ Adopt the districts and implement a sales tax of up to 1 percent.
▪ Adopt the districts without a sales tax, so the plan can be used in the future.
▪ Approve the districts as is and put the sales tax up for a public referendum.
▪ Take no action.
▪ Vote down the plan to adopt the proposed business districts.
Note: If the council decides to not approve the plan as-is by Dec. 5, the plan will not be usable. If the council were to decide later that it wanted to implement the plan, another study would have to be commissioned to reaffirm the need for the business districts. The first study cost the city $41,900.