South KC Perspective
City Looks Toward April 4 Ballot for Bond Proposal
By John Sharp
An $800 million general obligation bond issue to provide funding for sidewalk repairs (that are now assessed against adjoining property owners) and other infrastructure improvements is being proposed to go on the April 4, 2017, ballot by City Manager Troy Schulte.
Speaking for the first time publicly about the details of the bond proposal at the September 12 meeting of the South Kansas City Alliance (SKCA), Schulte said the bonds also would fund needed street and bridge improvements, flood control projects, major fountain repairs and the city’s share of constructing a new animal shelter that he said is desperately needed, which would be partially funded by private donations.
Schulte said if the proposal is approved by the City Council and by the required four-sevenths majority of voters, $40 million of bonds will be issued every year for 20 years. He said general obligation bonds are the cheapest way the city can borrow money, and the increased annual property taxes for the average homeowner with a $140,000 home and a $15,000 vehicle would only be $7.50, about the equivalent cost of a quarter-pounder value meal.
“This lets us take advantage of very low interest rates,” Schulte said.
He mentioned several south Kansas City street improvements that could be funded by the bonds, including continuing widening 135th St. (from the west end of the current improvements at Wornall Rd. west to Inverness Dr.), widening Holmes Rd. (from Minor Drive or 115th Ter. south to Martin City), widening Red Bridge Rd. (from Blue River Rd. to Grandview Rd.), reopening the closed portion of Blue River Rd. and continuing the reconstruction of Wornall Rd.
“There are issues like these all over the city,” Schulte said. He noted he envisions the Public Improvements Advisory Committee (PIAC) that I sit on making recommendations to the City Council on what projects should be funded and when if the bond issue is approved.
He said the city needs to spend three times more than it is spending now for street maintenance, that about $500 million worth of sidewalk repairs is needed and it will cost about $800 million to install sidewalks where none exist.
Sidewalk repairs can cost adjoining property owners anywhere from a few hundred dollars to around $5,000, Schulte said, which can be paid off in annual installments over six years. He said this often results in more affluent areas petitioning the city for sidewalk repairs and poorer areas (which may have greater needs) resisting them.
In the 6th Council District which covers most of south Kansas City, 20% of the cost of sidewalk repairs requested by adjoining property owners, recommended by PIAC and approved by the City Council are paid for by PIAC funds, as are sidewalk ramps at intersections. However, the cost to homeowners can still be substantial, especially if they live on corner lots with sidewalks on two sides of their property.
Schulte proposed funding sidewalk repairs through the bond issue and doing away with assessments for such repairs and also proposed paying half the cost of new sidewalks where none exist. Currently, the city pays the entire cost for the initial installation of sidewalks as was done along Blue Ridge Blvd. from Bannister Rd. to the Grandview city limits at 119th St.
Splitting the cost of new sidewalks with adjoining property owners would stretch city funds further and allow more sidewalks to be constructed, but would place a heavy financial burden on homeowners in low income areas, particularly persons on fixed incomes. This could replicate the present situation regarding sidewalk repairs, with more affluent areas seeking new sidewalks and poorer areas resisting them due to their cost even if they are greatly needed.
Schulte assured those attending that no conversations are going on about using any of the bond proceeds to fund airport, streetcar or light rail projects.
Sales Tax Continuation
Schulte said at the SKCA meeting that the city also is considering placing a continuation of the current 1-cent sales tax for capital improvements on the April ballot since that tax expires at the end of 2018. Projects funded by this tax are recommended by PIAC and approved by the City Council.
Currently, at least 35% of these funds must be divided equally among the six Council districts and at least 15% must be spent on maintenance, although maintenance funding generally totals much more than the required minimum. Remaining funds are spent on capital projects considered to have citywide significance, which Schulte hopes would be funded by the proposed bond issue.
At the SKCA meeting, Schulte proposed earmarking 70% of these sales tax funds for maintenance, and reducing the amount to be divided equally among all Council districts to 30%. This fiscal year, each Council district received $3,955,403 for projects within their boundaries, although many projects impacting more than one district were jointly funded by two or more districts.
Cutting the funds allocated to each Council district as the city manager proposed would have resulted in a cut of approximately $565,000 in funding for projects in each Council district such as storm drainage and park improvements that are not of citywide significance but are very important to maintaining the viability of our neighborhoods. I really hope this proposed cut is not approved by the Council.
Four members of the City Council – Alissia Canady, Kevin McManus, Katheryn Shields and Scott Taylor – also attended the SKCA meeting and commented about the bond proposal. All appeared generally supportive, but obviously many details still need to be hammered out.
Red Bridge Area Plan
The goals and guiding principles of the Red Bridge Area Plan are taking shape following two public meetings to gather citizen input.
The plan will serve as a guide for future land use, development and zoning, as well as for needed public infrastructure investments such as street improvements. It covers the area from Blue Ridge Blvd. and the northern Grandview city limits on the south to 85th St. and the trolley track trail on the north, and from State Line Rd. on the west to 71 Highway/I-49 and the western Grandview city limits on the east.
Joe Blankenship, a planner for the City Planning & Development Department who is working on the plan, said area plans such as this should have a lifespan of 7-10 years. This plan will replace the long outdated South Development Area Plan that covers the great majority of the planning area that was adopted in 1970.
The following draft vision statement of what the area will be in the future that was developed by city staff and a steering committee was presented for feedback at the most recent public meeting September 8 at Center High School:
“The Red Bridge Area is a desirable family-friendly community. Residents and visitors alike enjoy the many recreation opportunities and vast green space anchored by the national historic trail identity. Commercial areas serve the wants and needs of the neighborhoods, employment centers, and institutions that call Red Bridge home.”
The following draft goals for the plan were also presented for public feedback:
- Maintain regional access and improve the local transportation network to accommodate all users.
- Reinvest in and maintain established neighborhoods and character while developing housing options that meet emerging needs and desires.
- Capitalize on nearby regional employment centers to spur quality new development/redevelopment.
- Support and invest in the existing commercial areas.
- Utilize the nationally recognized historic trails system and other existing recreational opportunities to increase recreation opportunities and access to green space.
- Establish a brand/identity for the area.
“The natural beauty of the area and its extensive trail system are unique,” said Kellie Johnston Dorsey, lead planner for the City Planning & Development Department who is also working on the plan.
She noted that there are many parts of the area that need sidewalks, and the plan will attempt to focus on the highest priorities for sidewalks such as arterial streets and streets around schools and other institutions, commercial areas, parks and transit stops.
She said she hopes to present a draft plan for more public input in November before the final draft is presented to the City Plan Commission and City Council for approval.
KC Day at the Capitol
Over 100 Kansas City residents traveled to Jefferson City September 13 for Kansas City Day at the Capitol organized by State Representatives DaRon McGee, Gail McCann Beatty and Judy Morgan, with the assistance of State Senator Shalonn “Kiki” Curls.
The event included tours of the State Capitol building and House and Senate chambers, the Governor’s Mansion and the Missouri Supreme Court building.
The group was treated to lunch in the Capitol rotunda which is between the House and Senate chambers. The legislators and staff pointed out the features of both chambers, and Senator Curls explained the traditions of the 34-member Senate and how it operates differently from the 163-member House.
Many south Kansas City residents, myself included, participated in the event, and several of us rode Amtrak from Lee’s Summit to Jefferson City, which was just as quick as driving (if going the speed limit), cost less than $50 roundtrip and gave us all a chance to relax and socialize along the way.
Representative McGee said he plans to make this an annual affair.
Voter Registration Deadline
Wednesday, October 12, at 5 p.m. is the deadline to register to vote in the November 8 general election. Young persons may register as long as they will turn 18 on or before November 8.
In south Kansas City, persons may register at the Red Bridge branch of the Mid-Continent Public Library in Red Bridge Shopping Center, the Blue Ridge branch at 9253 Blue Ridge Blvd., or at the Waldo branch of the Kansas City Public Library, 201 East 75th St.
In person absentee voting starts Tuesday, September 27, and persons may vote in the Kansas City Election Board offices in the basement of Union Station.
The Election Board is seeking poll workers for the election who are paid for their work that day and for training prior to the election. Persons may go to www.kceb.org for more information.