Early voting is already underway …and all this week, we’ve been taking a look at the issues at stake throughout West Texas. Today we turn to Midland….where voters are considering extending a 4B tax. That’s a sales tax that municipalities can enact for economic development.
The 4B sales tax in question was first introduced to Midland voters in 1999, when they approved it so the city could pay off a multi-sport facility in West Midland.
Now, that type 4B tax will sunset – unless voters approve extending it another 15 years.
Proponents of that move, like mayor Jerry Morales, say in a given year the 4B sales tax – which is a quarter for every 100 dollar spent, or a quarter penny on the dollar – could generate an estimated $150 million during its 15-year lifespan. The idea, Morales says, is that money could go towards major developments.
“This provided an opportunity to take that same quarter-cent sales tax, and be able to re-purpose the language to use it city wide on all of our parks, create some tournament facilities and help build new roads and the infrastructure that goes with that, in addition to some arts and culture,” Morales says.
Morales adds that this isn’t a new tax, and says Midlands sales tax is unaffected and will stay at its current rate. But opponents to 4B, have said the tax is frivolous and wasteful. Former Mayor and city council member, J.D. Faircloth, believes it would continue a line of poor decisions from the city.
“We’ve got 52 or so parks now and we don’t maintain what we got, much less building a bunch more that after the 15 year expiration, who’s going to take care of these new parks we built?” Faircloth says. “Once again, they’re probably gonna want to keep perpetuating these sales tax – it’s just a bad deal.”
When it comes to the facilities, like the tournament parks Morales has proposed, there’s concerns about the required maintenance costs for these projects too. Currently, Morales has earmarked about an estimated 15 million dollars for maintenance and operations for the proposed tournament fields and parks like Hogan. But Faircloth says, it remains wasteful spending.
“Leaving 150 million dollars in the pocket of Midlanders, they know how to spend their money a lot better than the city council,” Faircloth says.
For Morales the proposal would be preventative, and address the needs of a growing population that’s expected to swell to 180,000 by 2028. He says the groups that are moving to midland are looking for these types of social amenities and street developments that he hopes to solve with the 4B sales tax.
“The challenge is we are growing, and more housing, more road infrastructures are needed because there are more cars added to the road. We have to begin thinking about how to we put the water and sewer infrastructure in place, what lane is going to be developed. Those become issues that we’re challenged with on a budget that is at a 39-cent tax rate,” Morales says referring to the city’s tax rate, which has gone down since the first 4B sale tax was passed.
If approved, the quarter-penny tax would have a lifespan of 15 years. But if voters do not approve the extension, according to Texas tax code, a future vote on a 4B tax couldn’t come up for another year.