By Jill Draper
Kansas City will be in a tough spot if voters don’t go to the polls on April 6 to renew the city earnings tax, said Mayor Quinton Lucas at an online meeting of the South Kansas City Alliance on March 8. He described the tax as vital for public safety and basic services.
“Without it, we go into a tailspin,” said Lucas, who noted 48% of the tax is paid by non-city residents who work within KCMO boundaries but live elsewhere. “It’s the one true regional tax,” he said.
The 1% tax provides nearly $300 million per year for the city and must be voted on every five years, according to state law.
“We must take real steps to change that at the state legislature,” Lucas said. John Sharp, SKCA president, added that legislation has been introduced to change the renewal period to every 10 years. While SKCA cannot endorse political candidates, Sharp said the group does endorse the earnings tax.
In responding to a question from listeners, the mayor confirmed that non-city residents who spent most of the last year working from home were eligible to apply for an earnings tax refund. “We hope to tighten that up in the future,” he said.
If the earnings tax is voted down, Lucas identified property tax and/or sales tax increases as possible solutions to replace the missing funds.
“This is an important time in our city. We’ve been hit with a lot in the last year,” he concluded. “Let’s not give up tools that have been important to us.”
The mayor also addressed a question concerning solid waste. He said the city is considering a return to neighborhood bulky item pickup days which would not require advance appointments, as well as community dumpster weekends. Sharp followed up by announcing the 6th District Cleanup Day will be June 12 at two locations—Ruskin High School and South-Broadland Presbyterian Church. A district-wide hazardous waste pickup is tentatively scheduled at the end of July.
Lucas said there are still opportunities, both online and in-person, for the public to comment on the proposed city budget between now and March 25 when it will be adopted by the City Council. Go to kcmo.gov for details. He said the proposed budget calls for cuts ranging from 4-11% for most city departments.
Before Lucas spoke, the alliance heard from Kenny Rodrequez, the Grandview C-4 School District superintendent. Rodrequez discussed the upcoming April 6 election for a no-tax increase bond issue and a 60-cent property tax levy. He said the funds would be used to improve school buildings, including HVAC, roofs, restrooms, playgrounds and security. The largest project would be an addition to Martin City K-8 that will feature a gym and fine arts classrooms.
Rodrequez said the district’s current enrollment averages 4,000 students compared to about 3,000 in 2004 when they last asked for a tax increase. As an example, he said the annual jump in property taxes on a home valued at $150,000 would be $171. “We’re going to get a lot of bang for our buck,” he said.
See this recent article in The Telegraph for more details.