Augusta residents have the chance to ask questions

Augusta voters are voting again this month, but they won’t be going to the polls.  Instead, they will be returning mail-in ballots by April 25 on the question of the formation of an Augusta Recreation Commission, receiving one mill in property taxes, approximately $86,000, levied by Augusta USD 402.*
The question that will be voted on states that the annual tax will not exceed one mill to support the Recreation Commission.
A five-member board would govern the commission with one at-large member and two members each being appointed by the school district and city.
The question was not included on the ballot for the recent special election for filling the Fourth Congressional seat because additional questions on a special election ballot is not allowed by the State of Kansas.
A town hall meeting was held Tuesday evening at The Points Event Center in Augusta  for questions and answers pertaining to the Recreation Commission.  Eric Grooms, chairman of the Recreation Commission meeting, led the meeting and outlined the basic needs and functions of a Recreation Commission.
“A Recreation Commission will not be exclusive to Little League sports.  There will be traditional and non-traditional activities for all ages,” Grooms added, “It can be whatever we want it to be.”
Examples of possible activities include: HAM Radio licensure, photography, Tae Kwon Do, boot camps, disc golf clinics, kite festivals, cooking classes, quilting, aquatics, art classes, and dance.
Grooms explained that the commission would be a “friend” to the Little League sports and assist as much or as little as the leagues would want.  
“What will it give us that we don’t already have now?” asked longtime resident and retired educator Emerson Stewart.
Grooms shared that organizations and parents are having problems with sign-ups, maintaining volunteers, and are struggling to be efficient with information and resources.   
“I’m concerned about the tax increase and families with 3 to 5 kids.  The increase will impact them,” continued Stewart, “I am concerned about raising the taxes and that would hurt them more than this would help them.”
Another audience member Leann Boucher wanted to know why creating a recreation commission could help get volunteers.
“If the Arts Council and others have problems getting volunteers, how will this help?” she asked.
Grooms advised that those needed volunteers could ask for assistance in finding volunteers.
“It will be like a clearing house - a one-stop shop for all of the organizations,” advised Kellyn Modlin.
“But is it worth raising taxes for?” asked Boucher.
Several audience members shared positive experiences with recreation commissions in Ottawa, Winfield and Andover.   School board president Bill Rinkenbaugh, longtime softball coach and supporter, stated the commission would  be a definite plus in providing coordination.
Grooms explained that specifics about hiring a director, the possibility of constructing a wellness center, policies and procedures would all have to be discussed later.  The first hurdle to clear is the vote on the formation of the Recreation Commission and 1 mill levy in property taxes.
“It really is about quality of life.  I’m excited about this.  It won’t happen over night, but we have to start somewhere,” Grooms stated.
Grooms said that the REC committee has the support of  the Augusta Chamber of Commerce, Augusta Progress Inc., Augusta Senior Center, and the Augusta Arts Council,  along with the city, USD 402 and local churches. The committee feels that these organizations  would be able to help organize various activities through a REC commission.
In addition to Grooms, other members of the Recreation Committee are Mark McCollom, Sean Hayden, Janae Mettling, Andy Hall, Tony Madrigal, and Bill Morris.
Mail-in ballots will need to be signed and returned to the Butler County Clerk’s office by Tuesday, April 25.
*Property tax in the United States is based on a property’s value. Property tax calculations vary in different parts of the country, but typically follow a general format. Your local government assesses your property’s value annually or at some other interval and uses a tax rate called a mill rate to figure your annual property tax. One mill equals 1/1,000 of $1, or $1 of tax for every $1,000 of value. A property is typically subject to different mill rates from more than one jurisdiction, such as the county, state or local school district.

 $100,000 X  .115 = $11,500/1000= $ 11.50

Belinda Larsen is the Augusta City Editor and can be contacted at: blarsen@butlercountytimesgazette.com