KC area sales taxes are climbing higher and higher
The Kansas City Star
Buy a box of chocolates at the Russell Stover Candies store in Fairway and you’ll pay a 9.025 percent sales tax — one of the highest regular city rates in Kansas.
Shop at Olathe’s Great Mall of the Plains and you’ll shell out a 10.15 percent sales tax, which is the normal city rate plus a special community improvement district tax.
Finally, eat at a restaurant in Kansas City’s Power & Light District and the tax burden soars to 11.35 percent, which includes the regular city tax plus a special transportation district charge plus the city’s 2 percent restaurant tax.
Regressive sales taxes imposed by cities, counties and states are taking bigger-than-ever bites out of the wallets and purses of Kansas City area residents.
Just days ago, for example, the tax jumped by a half cent in Kansas City because voters last August passed a new funding stream for the parks.
In 2012 the sales tax rate increased by an eighth of a cent in Jackson and Clay counties to pay for voter-endorsed upgrades to the Kansas City Zoo.
And in 2010 the Kansas Legislature approved a “temporary” 1 percent spike to avoid further cuts in the state budget.
Summed up, people are paying much higher sales taxes than they did 30 years ago, when the total rate was under 6 percent in Kansas City.
Among larger cities, the sales tax rates are 8.925 percent in Kansas City, Kan.; 8.9 percent in Lenexa; 8.775 in Shawnee; 8.65 percent in Overland Park, Olathe and Leawood; 8.475 percent in Kansas City in Platte County; 8.35 percent in Kansas City in Jackson County; 8.1 percent in Kansas City in Clay County; 7.725 percent in Lee’s Summit and Liberty; and 7.475 percent in Blue Springs and Independence.
However, the rates are even higher in dozens of community improvement and transportation districts. Elected officials and property owners create the special taxes to force the public to finance improvements such as roads and garages, thus subsidizing economic development, especially shopping areas.
They include the Power & Light District and Country Club Plaza in Kansas City, Leawood’s Park Place, Overland Park’s Oak Park Mall and some of Independence’s shopping sites near 39th Street.
As 2013 moves forward, at least four sales tax-related issues are on the horizon.
- Jackson County voters may be asked later this year to endorse a 1-cent sales tax for commuter rail.
It’s far from a slam dunk, given its size and the cause: Mass transit hasn’t proven to be popular in this region. But county officials will talk up the ability of commuter rail to enhance economic development as well as move people, which could be winning arguments.
- Kansas City voters could be asked to increase the sales tax to support medical research.
This tax talk is in its formative stages behind the scenes with civic and elected officials. The basic idea would be to find ways to help move discoveries made in the lab to patients’ bedsides.
- Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback is expected to reveal next week whether he will support keeping the full 1-cent state sales tax approved in 2010.
The tax is scheduled to drop by six-tenths of a percent at mid-year, which would be a dramatic reduction in rates charged in Overland Park and other Kansas-side cities. However, the state likely will need the sales tax revenue to make up for ill-advised income tax cuts the Legislature passed last year. Some Republican lawmakers don’t want to continue the tax, claiming that would be a tax increase.
- Missouri officials this week said a 1 percent hike in the sales tax could pay for a statewide road improvement program.
The General Assembly, though, also will consider cutting existing programs to finance that work.
The sales tax has become the funder of choice for many projects in this area. Don’t expect that to change — until voters rebel when they decide rates have soared too high.
Reach Yael T. Abouhalkah at 816-234-4887 or email email@example.com. He blogs at voices.kansascity.com and appears on “Ruckus” at 7 tonight on KCPT. Twitter@ YaelTAbouhalkah