Thursday marked the official launch of a 4B sales tax campaign in Midland which if approved by voters, would allocate roughly $150 million in tax revenue to parks, art, and roads over the next 15 years.
Unlike most conventional tax campaigns, the 4B tax was originally established in Midland in 1999 for the sole purpose of funding the construction of a new sports facility, the Scharbauer Sports Complex, and was scheduled to sunset once the complex was paid off. Payments are ending in 2017, however, city council wants to continue the quarter-cent tax and expand the ways in which the revenue can be used.
Marketed as a necessary means to improve Midland’s quality of life, the city would like to use the tax revenue to expand and improve parks, grow Midland’s art sector, improve infrastructure, and have the ability to fund the estimated $3 million deficit generated annually by the Scharbauer Sports Complex. The current ballot language includes a 15 year sunset for the tax and ensures that all projects will be paid for on a “pay-as-you-go” basis in order to avoid accruing debt and interest.
At the campaign kick-off, Midland Mayor Jerry Morales outlined his vision for the 4B tax, emphasizing its role in improving parks. Under the current plan, $77 million would go towards the expansion and renovation of Hogan Park, Beal Park, and Reyes-Mashburn-Nelms Park, which would include projects such as new soccer and baseball fields, hike and bike trails, a splash pad, BMX trails, and general face lifts.
City Council Member Scott Dufford, who also spoke at the campaign kick-off, stated that Midland won’t have another chance to improve quality of life if the 4B tax isn’t passed – it’s “now or never.” In addition to improving quality of life, he said that the tax is needed to compete with similar cities such as Lubbock, Abilene, and San Angelo in terms of quality sports facilities, and to keep up with the city’s expected population growth.
With commodity prices finally on the upswing, there’s little doubt that Midland’s population will also grow as more oil and gas companies invest in the Permian Basin. The question at hand, however, comes down to priorities and trust. Among community needs, are park improvements a top priority, and can city officials be expected to spend the tax revenue responsibly and not create projects that will forever rely on taxpayer dollars to operate? The latter question stems from the Scharbauer Sports Complex’s inability to be self-sustaining, requiring $3 million in tax revenue annually.
Regardless of how you answer the questions above, it’s important to participate by casting your vote. Given the ballot language is approved by city council, Midlanders will see the 4B tax on their ballot on May 6th, 2017 and have the option to early vote from April 17th to 29th.