By John Sharp
Kansas City voters will decide on three questions that will be on the April 5 ballot that all require approval by a majority of voters to pass.
Question 1 will authorize issuing $750 million in sanitary sewer revenue bonds to fund federally mandated improvements to the city’s antiquated and deteriorating combined sewer system that currently allows raw sewage mixed with stormwater to enter area streams and rivers when the system overflows during heavy rains as well as other critical sanitary sewer improvements.
City officials have determined that issuing low interest revenue bonds is the cheapest way to finance these required improvements in order to prevent drastic increases in wastewater rates on customers’ water bills.
Bond funding spreads the cost of these necessary improvements over time so future ratepayers will pay their fair share instead of placing the entire burden on current customers. It also allows the city to take advantage of any federal or state infrastructure assistance programs that require a local funding match.
The city and the federal Environmental Protection Agency entered into a federal consent decree in 2010 to greatly reduce these environmentally harmful overflows which called for spending about $4.5 billion from 2010 to 2035.
However, due to concerns about the negative impact the decree would have on ratepayers, particularly persons on fixed or low incomes, and the success of the city in utilizing green solutions to minimize stormwater entering the system, both sides agreed to modify the decree in 2021.
That modification cut its projected cost nearly in half to approximately $2.3 billion and gave the city five more years until 2040 to meet its targets for reducing overflows.
If Question 1 passes, city council approval will still be required to issue bonds to finance specific projects over the next several years.
Question 2 will extend the city’s existing health levy at its current rate of 22 cents per $100 of assessed valuation for nine more years that supports the Fire Department’s ambulance service and other emergency medical services to help ensure quick and reliable response times to medical emergencies throughout the city.
The health levy, last renewed by voters in 2013, also provides funding to University Health (formerly Truman Medical Centers) and nonprofit neighborhood health centers to help cover their unreimbursed costs for providing care to uninsured patients while helping to keep health care costs lower for all patients.
Nonprofit neighborhood health centers that currently benefit from the levy are KC CARE Health Center, Northland Health Care Access, Swope Health and Samuel U. Rodgers Health Center.
Question 3 will remove a small parcel of vacant land containing less than seven acres serving as parkway right of way in the northland from the park system that the Board of Parks and Recreation Commissioners has determined is no longer needed.
Under the city charter, removing any land from the city’s park system requires voter approval.
There appears to be no organized opposition to any of the three measures.