A big victory for KC's parks, roads and Mayor James
The Kansas City Star
Kansas City voters spoke clearly Tuesday with their approval of Question 1: The enticement of eliminating several property taxes was worth accepting an increased sales tax to reap the rewards promised by Mayor Sly James and other city officials.
With an extra $23 million a year, City Hall has pledged to spend millions more on smoother roads and to provide a steady source of funding — through the new half-cent sales tax — for the Parks and Recreation Department.
The goals are certainly worthy, and James did a marvelous job with his upbeat attitude in persuading voters to take this decisive action.
Also Tuesday, voters overwhelmingly endorsed Question 2. The city soon will be able to issue $500 million in revenue bonds, financed with higher sewer rates, to start making $2.5 billion in federally mandated upgrades to the sewer system.
Regarding Question 1, the city’s decision to get rid of about $10.5 million worth of property taxes levied on Kansas City homeowners and businesses obviously was attractive to many voters.
They also seemed to endorse the idea touted by James and others — that levying a new sales tax would make visitors who buy things in Kansas City pay a bit extra for better roads and parks.
Overall, Kansas Citians will still end up paying more in taxes every year, which puts the pressure on James, the City Council and City Manager Troy Schulte’s staff to make good use of the money.
The parks department is a worthy recipient. Director Mark McHenry has said that, with an extra $3 million from the new tax, the agency would boost the hours that community centers operate, reinstate a solid program that evaluates the conditions of parks and return many of the services trimmed in recent years. These include shelter cleanings and planting flower beds.
City officials also must dedicate about $15 million in extra road repair funds in the annual budget, per the voters’ decision on Tuesday. That’s about double the amount now spent on roads, yet still not enough to properly maintain the streets.
James, Schulte and others must press ahead with other initiatives that would save tax dollars — such as pension reform — which would reward voters for their obvious faith in city government as expressed on Tuesday.