A county committee looking for ways to purchase open space and industrial land is looking for methods other than a new sales tax to fund its program.
Members of ECO2 said at a meeting Thursday morning that they thought it would be important to come up with innovative ways to fund any future open space and industrial land program.
"People have told us they would like something a little more creative than just passing a new sales tax," said RoxAnne Miller, chairwoman of ECO2.
The board, however, didn't offer examples of what new types of funding options may be considered. Miller said the board likely would discuss those ideas in the next month. The group also hasn't set a specific amount of money that it needs to raise to purchase enough industrial and open space land to satisfy the community's long-term needs.
But the Lawrence-Douglas County Economic Development Board - in consultation with ECO2 - has proposed that Lawrence and Douglas County spend $5 million on open space and $5 million on industrial land during the next 10 years. Funding for that proposal also hasn't been developed.
Miller said ECO2 supported the economic development board's plan, but views it as meeting only short-term needs. Miller said ECO2 was looking for funding to address long-term needs.
But the funding for the short-term and long-term plans could be similar. Miller said many communities had found other ways to support open space programs without using a sales tax. According to data compiled by the Trust for Public Land and the Land Trust Alliance, communities have used property tax increases, fees that are charged for filing a plat, an earned income tax, and a vehicle usage tax, among other methods to fund open space purchases.
Miller said ECO2 likely would not make a specific funding recommendation to city and county commissioners, but rather would provide a list of five to 10 funding options that the group has researched.
Mark Gonzales, a member of ECO2, said the funding options would be important, but said the group still had much work to do educating the general public about the value of preserving open space.
"Hopefully, in time, they will see the benefit of open space," Gonzales said.
The group is working on a public report that will address that issue and also give more details about an open space and industrial lands program. That report should be ready by mid-March, Miller said.
The group's next meeting will be at 7:30 a.m. Dec. 1 at the Douglas County Courthouse, 11th and Massachusetts streets.