Check your mail – ballots for the community center ballot initiative are arriving this week! As you get ready to cast your ballot, here are the answers to a few additional questions we received from residents over the weekend. Be sure to check out our full ballot initiative website, which includes links to the various studies we’ve conducted, the financial analysis for both options, and an extensive Frequently Asked Questions section. We’re also happy to answer any other questions you have. Feel free to contact us on Facebook, Twitter, or by email.
Why is the new community center $30 million – can’t we build a new facility for less?
Through public forums and citizen surveys, residents said the top amenities they want in a new recreation facility are indoor/outdoor pools, an indoor walking/jogging track, a full basketball court, and a child watch area. These amenities, as well as a fitness center, aerobics room, classroom/meeting space, and the Parks and Recreation Department offices will fill the bulk of the proposed 66,000 square foot community center at Vavra Park.
The cost estimate for the build new option is based on the cost of recent buildings of this size and scope. We used conservative assumptions vetted by professionals in the building industry and reviewed by a resident steering committee.
If the issue passes and we build a new community center, what happens if the sales tax doesn’t bring in enough to cover the bond payments?
Two key points were considered for this project when evaluating if this is the right time to move forward with a bond issue and sales tax:
Today’s retail environment can support it. The financial analysis for this project is based off of today’s retail environment in Merriam. It doesn’t include the additional sales tax revenue from businesses we know are coming to town, including two new car dealerships.
The future is more certain in a 10-year timeframe. While the resident steering committee, City staff, and City Council considered a 20-year bond term and 20-year sales tax, we ultimately decided to move forward with a 10-year term for both because it saved the City money in the long run. The City can afford the increased annual payment, and more importantly, the future is more certain in a 10-year timeframe.
If an unforeseen circumstance significantly impacts the retail environment and sales tax revenue in Merriam, plenty of options exist to make adjustments and cover the debt service payment on the bonds. These options don’t include raising property taxes or significantly impacting the level of City services. Tools available include utilizing a portion of the City’s fund balance set aside as a contingency for situations like this, refinancing the bonds to a longer term, or reprioritizing non-essential areas of the budget.
How accurate are your cost estimates for the repair/renovate option?
The cost estimates for the Irene B. French Community Center (IBFCC) and the Merriam Aquatic Center (MAC) are the result of an extensive study conducted by a team of consultants and vetted by the resident steering committee.
Much like your own home, remodeling is expensive and you often encounter unknown issues. At the IBFCC, there are no comprehensive blueprints available for the building due to its age and number of owners, so our cost estimates for repairs are based on what we know today.
Things are continuing to break down. Our repair budget for 2017 was gone by July, and we regularly find new issues in the course of making necessary repairs. While we’re confident that $20 million will help us take significant steps toward repairing and renovating the IBFCC and MAC, the scope of work isn’t known until we start reconstruction.
Could the City make repairs to the IBFCC and pool without putting the City in any debt?
The City has $6 million currently available for the build new or repair/renovate options, so bonds would need to be issued either way. While the total price tag for repair/renovation ($20 million) is less than build new ($30 million) option, the annual debt payment is more because a new revenue source (the sales tax) wouldn’t be implemented. You can read more about this on our FAQs page.
How much more will membership cost at new community center?
It’s the City’s priority to keep this facility affordable and accessible for all members of our community, and City Council would need to approve any rate structure before it’s implemented. As part of the study, a business plan and pro-forma were completed for the build new option and the following initial rate structure was proposed:
Family Membership Proposed Rates
|Current Membership Rate at IBFCC + MAC||$465||$38.75|
|Membership Rate at New Facility||$540||$45.00|
Individual Membership Proposed Rates
|Current Membership Rate at IBFCC + MAC||$370||$30.83|
|Membership Rate at New Facility||$360||$30.00|
If you combine the community center and pool membership rates, an individual membership would see about a $1 decrease per month while a family membership would see about a $7 increase per month.
Will voting YES to build new impact the quality of our parks, streets, and roads?
The City has worked hard over the past few years to finish a number of major infrastructure improvement projects listed in the Capital Improvement Plan (the program used to fund improvements to parks, streets, roads and other infrastructure). We are also in the midst of several projects that are already funded. With a majority of infrastructure projects behind us, we’ve entered a cycle of repair and will focus on maintaining our infrastructure to the level our residents expect.