Springfield City Council members Brandon Jenson, left, Monica Horton, Abe McGull, Matthew Simpson, Mayor Ken McClure and Council members Craig Hosmer, Heather Hardinger, Callie Carroll and Derek Lee at a council meeting on November 20, 2023. (Photo by Jym Wilson)

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In an effort to collect community input for a potential tax measure, the Springfield City Council is forming a commission that will provide a recommendation to council members in time to put it to a vote in the November election.

On March 27, Mayor Ken McClure told reporters that the City Council will consider a resolution at its April 8 meeting that will create a “Citizens Commission on Community Investment.” The announcement came almost six months after the City Council first deliberated over a possible sales tax measure.

The commission — which will be made up of about 25 members representing “various interests” — would take up the torch of consideration of a proposed ¾-cent sales tax, to replace the expiring pension sales tax of the same value, and provide a recommendation to the City Council by June 30.

The City Council would then review the commission’s recommendations, and potentially vote on a sales tax measure ahead of the Aug. 27 deadline for it to make the November ballot. 

“The advantages to this, I think, are many,” McClure said. “First we have a broad consensus of three areas from Council. So that would be the chart that we would give to this commission. And then secondly, we would ask them to flesh it out. What does this look like? How do we need to go with that?”

Council’s ‘broad consensus’ a foundation for commission’s consideration

Springfield Mayor Ken McClure delivering his 2023 State of the City Address. (Photo by Jym Wilson)

First voted through in 2009, and renewed for two additional five-year terms, Springfield’s Pension Sales Tax — which exclusively funds the city’s Police and Firefighters’ Retirement System — is set to expire on March 31, 2025.

The retirement system, which was severely underfunded and threatened to bankrupt the city in 2009, is now over 90% funded, a figure that will likely continue to increase in the remaining year of the pension tax. Following its expiration, the city would still have an obligation to the pension of about $3.5 million to $5 million a year for some period of time.

Discussion of a potential new sales tax kicked off at a City Council retreat in September, and resumed in January after initial disagreements with a ¾-cent tax measure stalled further deliberation.

McClure said he thinks the January meeting went “pretty well” and that the City Council reached a “broad consensus” on what a possible new sales tax could fund. In addition to ongoing pension obligations, council members agreed a new tax should fund public safety initiatives and the various projects and priorities of the Forward SGF Comprehensive Plan.

Commission to consider City Council, community input

Though McClure said a new tax would “probably” be of equal value to the pension tax — keeping the city’s overall sales tax rate of 8.1% the same — the commission could consider a different level, though it likely wouldn’t be higher than ¾-cent. The current ¾-cent sales tax generates about $45 million annually.

“I think all of that is fair game for them to discuss,” McClure said.

In addition to considering the City Council’s broad priorities, the commission will also take into account public input previously collected by the city through surveys, and may provide additional opportunities for community feedback.

McClure said the commission will have a “diversity of membership,” compiled through feedback from his fellow council members. The list of members of the commission is still being finalized, and will be released next week, along with a draft of the resolution establishing the task force.

“There will be differing views, as there should be,” McClure said. “Talking through all of this, there's going to be a lot of a lot of advocacy and I'm perfectly fine with that. Let's hear what people have to say and how best to use this. This is a great opportunity for our community, one that we need badly.”

This story has been updated with additional information.

Jack McGee

Jack McGee is the government affairs reporter at the Hauxeda. He previously covered politics and business for the Daily Citizen. He’s an MSU graduate with a Bachelor of Science degree in journalism and a minor political science. Reach him at jmcgee@hauxeda.com or (417) 837-3663. More by Jack McGee