Earlier today, we met with three folks from the Great Rivers Greenway District in St. Louis. Their organization owes its very existence to a voter-approved one-tenth of one cent sales tax that generates $10 million each year. As a result, they’ve been able to complete about 100 miles of trails and greenways in a 1,216-square-mile area over the last few years, and have plans to create a network of 500 miles more. Not all of their financing comes from the sales tax, but it was the jumpstart the region needed to add to its open space.
As I thought about that tonight, I realized that Dubuque City Manager Mike Van Milligen had told me a similar thing: voters there passed a sales tax to support school funding. Some of that funding went into the district’s first new school built in 30 years — a school designed with sustainability in mind. Check this out, from the website of national architecture firm Durrant (we met the managing principal of their Dubuque office, Kevin Eipperle, yesterday):
The building and entire site is designed with environmental sustainability as a goal. Some of the implemented procedures for the site included a storm water retention pond that doubles as a wetland with outdoor classroom opportunities, several acres of reintroduced natural prairie, use of local materials and locally manufactured equipment, maintaining natural contours of the site and matching the building to the slope, and construction waste recycling which diverted more than 50 percent of the waste generated during construction away from the landfill. Environmental considerations for the building involved a geothermal vertical closed-loop heating and cooling system, use of significant day lighting, installation of high-efficiency equipment, and integrating a recycling system for building operation. This environmentally conscious design approach reflects the stewardship philosophy of Durrant, the Dubuque Community School District, and the Dubuque community.
There’s a whole mish-mash of financing that goes into all these projects, of course, but one thing seems to be coming into focus: taxes aren’t evil, and these forward-looking communities are well aware of that. As a result of coughing up a little more cash than they have to, they’re seeing immeasurable health, social, environmental, and economic benefits. Just imagine.