First, an update on the lawsuit regarding the payment on the Zona Rosa related bonds. As expected, the trustee for the bondholders filed an appeal of the court ruling that said Platte County was not legally obligated to make payment. This lawsuit has already cost taxpayers almost $525,000 in legal expenses. One attorney who is familiar with cases like this one told me to expect those costs to at least double before the appeal is decided. Meanwhile, Platte County's credit rating is still considered junk status for not making a payment on the bonds.
Next, the status of the Platte County Sales Tax Structure Advisory Committee (Committee) activities. There have been three meetings of the Committee so far. The 10-year budgets for Parks, Sheriff's Department, and Prosecutor's Office have been presented and discussed. The Parks budget only included funding to maintain existing facilities, not to add facilities or otherwise provide enhancements to our park system. It is important to note that this budget was prepared by the director, who reports to the commissioners and must follow their direction. Both Sheriff Owen and Prosecutor Zahnd described the need to increase salaries of staff to remain competitive and cited an increase in serious crimes in the county as a reason for the need to increase their budgets.
Commissioner John Elliott made it clear at the conclusion of the third meeting that the Committee is to only examine the half-cent sales tax for parks and determine how to restructure it to include funding for public safety as a priority.
After the last meeting, I asked Sandra Thomas, Chair, if there were any plans for public forums to allow for public input. She indicated there would not be a need for any.
I truly appreciate the willingness of the members of the Committee to dedicate their time and energy into forming a recommendation for the county commissioners to consider. And, I believe the Sheriff, Prosecutor, and Courts need additional funding to remain effective in providing for our safety. My concern is that the commissioners plan to sacrifice our parks in order to provide that funding and are steering the Committee in that direction.
Consider past actions of the current county commissioners. They have reduced the number of county-owned parks from six to four. They sold the only publicly owned golf course in Platte County for less than market value. And, they eliminated the parks director position by adding the responsibilities to the planning director. At least one commissioner personally contributed funding to the effort to defeat the parks tax when it was last on the ballot. The commissioners clearly have an anti-parks bias.
We can have both, properly funded public safety offices and a park system that continues to enhance our quality of life and property values. We need commissioners who are willing to give us both.