New KC billboard tax could be blight remover
The Kansas City Star
A bid to beautify Kansas City may deserve to be on the November ballot.
Looking for more ways to reduce billboard blight, a City Council committee today will hold a hearing on a proposal to levy a 2 percent tax on the revenues that companies collect through their outdoor advertising signs.
The tax could raise between $110,000 to $180,000 a year, giving the city another tool to enforce the strict billboard ordinance it approved several years ago.
But before placing the measure before voters, the council and city staff need to provide a definitive plan to the public for using the funds.
One priority ought to be removing outdoor signs that are not maintained or have remained blank for far longer than allowed by the ordinance, usually three months or more. That kind of blight must not be tolerated, especially in urban core neighborhoods.
The city also could set aside some of the new funds to help pay to take down billboards that are in the way of public projects, such as road construction. The city has to pay companies when those signs are removed and the revenues they bring in are eliminated. The rub, of course, is putting a value on a sign’s real worth. Billboard operators seek the heftiest buyouts; City Hall wants to hold down the cost to taxpayers, leaving more public money to build better streets.
Missouri state law allows the 2 percent tax, and only a few small cities have imposed it so far. The City Council needs to make the case to voters that it has found valid ways to use the funds raised by such a tax to tidy up Kansas City.