South KC Perspective
Ballot Issues Pass
By John Sharp
All three issues that were on the ballot April 6 passed by healthy margins.
Continuation of KCMO’s 1 percent earnings tax on wages earned by city residents and persons who work in the city but live elsewhere and on net profits of businesses located in the city or doing business here for five years starting January 1, 2022, was approved by 77.3 percent of voters according to unofficial results.
In the Jackson County portion of the city, renewal of the e-tax carried by 84.1 percent. It carried by a little over 65 percent in both Clay and Platte Counties.
Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas said he was ecstatic about the results which he noted protects city jobs and critical services.
The earnings tax is the city’s largest single source of revenue. Historically, about half of e-tax revenue comes from persons who work in the city and use city facilities and services while here, but live elsewhere.
The tax is not assessed on pension or Social Security payments or on disability or unemployment benefits.
In the two prior elections required by that law, Kansas City’s e-tax won 78 percent approval in 2011 and 77 percent approval in 2016, nearly identical to this month’s victory margin.
Even though the tax has been renewed overwhelmingly by voters, putting the city’s single biggest source of revenue in jeopardy every five years forces the city to pay higher interest rates when it issues bonds to fund capital improvements such as street and bridge construction.
“It’s time for Jefferson City to hear our voices after a third successful defense of the earnings tax and remove the expensive, unnecessary requirement that we spend taxpayer money to have these elections every five years,” Lucas said. “Kansas Citians have spoken, and want control of their local affairs.”
The Grandview C-4 School District’s proposal to increase its property tax levy for the first time in 17 years and a no tax increase bond proposal to finance improvements and renovations at all district schools both passed with healthy margins based on unofficial results.
The 60-cent increase in the property tax levy from $4.3057 to $4.9057 per $100 of assessed valuation to fund competitive salaries and benefits to attract and retain quality teachers and staff and to cover increasing operating costs which required a simple majority to pass carried by 57.1 percent.
The $45 million bond proposal did not require a tax increase since these bonds will replace bonds that were paid off earlier. It required a 57.2 percent majority for approval and passed by 71.2 percent.
The levy increase passed by a 3.1 percent lower margin in the Kansas City portion of the school district than in the balance of the district, but the bond proposal passed in the Kansas City portion with a slightly higher margin than the rest of the district. That was perhaps at least partly due to the planned major expansion of the Martin City K-8 School in Kansas City which serves both elementary and middle school students.
“The passage of the tax levy will allow us to be able to recruit and retain the absolute best and brightest staff because we know our students deserve it,” said Grandview Superintendent Dr. Kenny Rodrequez following passage of the levy.
The superintendent had expressed concerns prior to the levy vote that without adequate funding to maintain competitive salaries and benefits the district could become a training ground for teachers and staff who could be lured away by more affluent districts.
Rodrequez pointed out in an interview regarding the bond issue that several improvements the bonds will fund such as roof repairs, HVAC upgrades and window replacements at district schools built in the 1950s and 60s will lower operating costs and save energy, while avoiding costly repairs to aging equipment and facilities.