With no Democratic challenger on the ballot, the winner of the Platte County Commission’s first district Republican primary will cruise to the Nov. 8 general election unopposed. Incumbent commissioner Beverlee Roper faces challenger Dagmar Wood in the Tuesday, Aug. 2 election.
Beverlee Roper, 65, lives in Weatherby Lake and previously served as municipal judge for that community. A widow with no children, she is currently an attorney with the Bruce Campbell Law Firm and was elected to the commission in 2012. She hosted a television talk show in Ohio before attending Vermont Law School. After graduation, she served as first a public defender and then city magistrate in Pittsburgh, Pa. She also worked as a trial attorney for the U.S. Department of Justice before relocating to Kansas City.
Roper is running for re-election to “keep Platte County No. 1,” she said, adding she wishes to keep the county as debt free as possible as well.
“This year the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation ranked Platte County No. 1 in Missouri for quality of life, and the 2015 U.S. Census data showed Platte as the fastest growing county in Missouri,” Roper said, pointing to her leadership as part of the reason why.
Roper also credits her ability to work with others and form collaborative partnerships as a cornerstone of the county’s current status. To maintain that status, the next commission must work to stay ahead of road infrastructure needs, tackle a jail expansion into the “futures” area beneath the current jail, balance the needs of law enforcement and employee retention as well as determine the future of the one-half cent parks sales tax.
“The next commission must decide whether and how much a new parks tax will be submitted for public approval,” Roper said. “Early in the next term the commission will appoint an ad hoc committee including the school districts, Friends of Parks, the cities, the sheriff and other stakeholders including a taxpayer advocate, to examine the tax, its costs and benefits, and likely future revenue. A professional consultant may be retained to poll constituents regarding these matters.”
Roper said the commission has worked to set aside funds to pay cash for future projects such as the jail expansion and roads project, utilizing the three-eighths cent roads sales tax. Her personal vision for the county is to limit the issuance of additional public debt to true emergencies.
“The county commission must budget ahead for known future expenses and never leave an unfunded federal mandate to the next commission to solve, and the next, to the point where the only alternative for the last commission when the debt becomes due is to increase taxes,” Roper said. “That is unacceptable and should never be tolerated by the electorate.”
Various efforts to restructure the parks and recreation tax to include an element for law enforcement funding have been organized over the years — and at one time a ballot measure with one-quarter cent for parks and one-quarter cent for law enforcement was considered — and Roper said she would consider studying a law enforcement tax.
“Just as the parks tax will be studied, so shall the law enforcement budget be analyzed in much the same way with input from the sheriff and prosecutor before the taxpayer is asked to pay an additional law enforcement tax,” Roper said.
Another hot-button issue in the election is the fate of the county-owned Shiloh Springs Golf Course.
“The current commission budgeted for and paid off the Shiloh debt and entered into a three-year contract with KemperSports, a national golf consulting company which operates the Shoal Creek and Hodge Park golf courses for Kansas City,” Roper said. “The company recently completed its first year and looks forward to an improving balance sheet this year.”
Dagmar Wood, 49, has lived in Parkville for 23 years with her husband, Eric, and four children. Originally from Chesterfield, Mo., she earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Missouri in Columbia and a master’s degree in public administration from the University of Missouri-Kansas City.
Now a full-time mother, Wood previously worked as an analyst at the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City.
“In addition to my education and past work experience, I have stayed involved in the community by volunteering for many governmental entities, political organizations and schools,” said Wood, who served as chair of an ambulance committee in Parkville and as a member of the jail committee appointed last year by the Platte County Commission to determine if a jail expansion was necessary.
She believes the first district needs more fiscally responsible solutions to challenges.
“My opponent has let us down by consistently kicking issues down the road,” Wood said, noting that the county knew that a federally-mandated radio upgrade was on the horizon since the Clinton administration. “We know most of our future expenses ahead of time and if we steward the taxpayers’ money well and budget long-term for these items, we won’t have to increase taxes in order to pay for most of them. I believe we can do a much better job in securing Platte County’s financial future.”
The county funded that mandate by raising its property tax levy in 2014 from one cent to six cents per $100 assessed valuation.
Wood points to that, as well as a reliance on voter-approved sales taxes, as flaws in the county’s current financial planning.
“I believe that the county has not adequately prepared for the future needs of our parks and community centers with only $3.4 million in the parks future maintenance fund saved over the course of the last 16 years,” Wood said. “That’s less than two years’ worth of maintenance costs saved. I believe this is negligent and is not a risk I will continue. If elected, I will work with presiding commissioner Ron Schieber to maintain our parks and community centers at an excellent level, save for their ongoing future maintenance and address the diversion of $1.5 million annually of the parks use tax to general revenue.”
When the current tax sunsets in 2020, Wood said she would like to see a one-half cent renewal go to voters during a November election to receive the most voter input possible.
“I would like to see a portion allocated to parks and stormwater and a portion for public safety needs as well,” Wood said. “I believe that public safety’s budget should be greater than parks’ budget because public safety is a core county function. Does that make me anti-parks? No. No more than believing that the prosecutor’s budget should be greater than the clerk’s budget makes me anti-clerk. It just means that there are financial priorities - everything can’t be No. 1.”
Wood also considers one parks and recreation facility to be a drain on the county’s budget – Shiloh Springs Golf Course.
“I don’t believe it makes sense for the county to be in the golf course business when there are a dozen prospering golf courses in the Northland that most golfers prefer over Shiloh,” Wood said. “Shiloh Golf Course is not filling a recreational need that doesn’t already exist, but diverting much-needed funds from our parks, trails and community centers. I would like to see this golf course off the county’s books and prospering under different ownership.”