Letter From the Mayor: July 2022
Letter From the Mayor: July 2022
July 1, 2022
In both the March and May newsletters this year, I wrote to you about some of the concerns we have about funding unmet needs in our Police and Parks departments. Our Police Department needs to grow in staffing and facilities. Our Parks Department needs to provide more and better parks facilities for our community to enjoy.
This month, I want to dive into a little more detail about the biggest, most expensive issues the city is trying to resolve.
Let’s start with the Police Department. Apart from the electric utility, the city invests the most in Public Safety. Over 30% of the city’s total expenditures in 2021 were for the Police Department. The next most expensive function of the municipal government is streets, at 15.75% of our total expenditures. Parks ranks fourth at about 10.5%. In 2021 the city spent $3.7 million in the Police Department, most of that on officer pay. Compare that figure to the amount of general sales tax revenue we collected in 2021, which was $3.4 million. The general sales tax is the city’s largest revenue source from which we can pay for Police services.
And yet, a staffing study shows the department needs 11 more officers to keep up with the growing number of calls for service. As our population grows, so do the number of calls asking our police for help. Salaries, benefits, training and equipment costs for 11 Police Officers would be another million dollars in the first year but would continue to go up in consecutive years as officers’ pay rises. However, even if we could hire 11 more officers tomorrow, where would we put them?
Our Police Department has outgrown their headquarters. A recent study shows the police headquarters needs to double in size just for the current staffing, let alone the 11 additional officers needed. Our Chief of Police says the facilities and officers are both needed in order to maintain the current level of service.
Now let’s take a look at parks.
According to the National Recreation and Park Association (NRPA), cities should have about 9.9 acres of park land per thousand people. Based on our population, Nixa should have 242.55 acres of park land. Yet currently, we only have 58 acres of developed park land and another 105.68 acres of undeveloped land which will become the Eoff Family Century Farm Park. Even counting the undeveloped Eoff land, we are still 78.87 acres behind in park space for a community of our size. Land is not cheap in Nixa, and developing new parks is also expensive, especially as construction costs continue to rise.
NRPA recommends we should have 1 playground for every 3,607 residents. This means Nixa should have 7 playgrounds. We currently have 3. (The city is investing about a million dollars this year to replace the aging McCauley Park playground with a new, bigger, fully accessible playground, along with stormwater improvements to stop flooding issues we have had on the current playground area.) We still need 3 or 4 more playgrounds in other areas of town to get to the recommended number.
Nixa Parks and Recreation has seen a 57% increase in program participation over the past 8 years and continues to grow. Currently, The X Center is operating at 85-90% capacity, leaving very little time for additional programs and services. The X Center only has one indoor basketball court, and there is more demand than ever for more indoor recreational facilities which could be used by our recreational basketball, volleyball, and pickleball leagues. Nixa doesn’t have any indoor space large enough to host a tournament for our children as they learn to compete in these athletic endeavors.
Last year the City of Nixa finished paying off the debt for development of McCauley Park including The X Center and outdoor pool. That debt was taken out in 2000 when our population was just over 12,000 people. Today, our population has officially doubled that to over 24,000.
Similarly, the Police Department and City Hall were expanded in 2007, a few years before our population reached 19,000. Add 5,000 more residents and new home construction showing no signs of slowing, and it makes sense that we need to provide more facilities to meet the needs of our growing community.
Police and Parks services are vital to maintain exceptional quality of life. The challenge we now face is figuring out what exactly needs to be prioritized first and how to pay for it.
Mayor Brian Steele