South KC Persepctive
April Tax Vote
By John Sharp
Kansas City voters will be asked to extend the current one percent sales tax for capital improvements for 20 years on April 3rd following unanimous passage January 18 by the KCMO City Council of an ordinance placing the tax extension on the ballot.
Funds from the tax can be used for public capital improvements including bridge repair and replacement, curbs and gutters, flood control, park facilities, public building improvements, sidewalks, storm water control, street improvements and trails. The measure requires approval by a simple majority of those voting.
During debate on the measure, Mayor Pro Tem and Finance Committee Chair Scott Wagner said the tax generates about $70 million annually.
The ballot language requires at least 25 percent of the revenue to be used for street repair, resurfacing and construction of complete street facilities.
It also requires 35 percent of the revenue from the tax to continue to be divided equally among the six council districts to fund neighborhood projects based on the recommendations of the Public Improvements Advisory Committee (PIAC) members from each district and approval of the city council. For the upcoming 2018-19 fiscal year each district was allocated $4,120,000 from the tax.
I serve on the PIAC, and our 6th Council District recommendations from this allocation for funding major area street improvement projects for next fiscal year which are subject to final council approval of the city budget include $450,000 for a retaining wall and other bank stabilization work to protect the northbound lanes of Ward Pkwy. west of Wornall Rd. from being undermined by Dykes Branch; $350,000 for completion of right-of-way plans for improving Holmes Rd. from Blue Ridge Blvd. to 137th St.; $200,000 for right-of-way acquisition for improving Red Bridge Rd. from Holmes Rd. to Wornall Rd.; $200,000 for completion of right-of-way plans for future improvements to Red Bridge Rd. from Blue River Rd. to Montgall; and $150,000, to be matched by the 5th Council District, to complete the preliminary roadway design and right-of-way plans to reconstruct the closed and failing portions of Blue River Rd.
We also recommended funding for several major park, sidewalk, storm water control and trail projects.
The balance of the revenue has to be used for other capital improvements, and the ballot language allows funds from the tax to be used to pay the city’s share of the cost of replacing the Buck O’Neil Bridge. Replacement of the deteriorating bridge over the Missouri River is estimated to cost about $200 million, and the Missouri Department of Transportation has said it will only allocate $100 million for the project – the projected cost to repair the bridge – which could close it to traffic for up to two years.
Wagner said the Mid-America Regional Council (MARC) has committed to provide $40 million in federal Surface Transportation Program (STP) funds for the project over two years, but that still leaves a $60 million gap. (It also means Kansas City will get no STP funds through MARC for other capital projects during those years.)
He said the worst case scenario is that city sales tax funds would have to provide the entire $60 million that could be paid off over 10 to 15 years, but he hopes having the authority to use sales tax funds as a possible match will enhance the city’s efforts to obtain additional federal funding for the project.
Councilman Kevin McManus noted in the debate that the city’s ability to successfully compete for federal funds is dependent on its ability to match those funds.