By John Sharp
KCMO’s two no tax increase bond issues to improve city parks, community centers and convention facilities and to provide more affordable housing both won voter approval November 8.
Question 1 approved issuing up to $125 million in general obligation bonds, with $80 million of that slated to make needed upgrades at the city’s 10 community centers, fountains, parks, playgrounds, pools and other aquatics facilities.
“Community center infrastructure, aquatics facilities, historic fountains and outdated playgrounds will all be addressed in order to keep our parks and recreation facilities on par with what the citizens of Kansas City deserve,” said Chris Cotten, director of the City Parks & Recreation Department, after the question’s passage.
The remaining $45 million is earmarked to fund deferred maintenance at the city’s convention facilities so they can continue to attract conventions and other major events that draw tens of thousands of visitors here to boost the city’s economy.
“We are now able to upgrade critical infrastructure at Bartle Hall, Music Hall and Municipal Auditorium so that we can continue to utilize these venues for years to come,” said Kimiko Black Gilmore, executive director of convention & entertainment facilities for the city.
Question 2 approved issuing up to $50 million in general obligation bonds to provide additional affordable housing in the city by rehabilitating and renovating existing housing stock including blight removal and constructing new housing units for low to moderate income families.
Passage of the proposition will allow the city council to continue to approve projects recommended by the city’s Housing Trust Fund Board that provide significant affordable housing, said Jane Pansing Brown, director of the City Housing & Community Development Department.
“Once again, Kansas Citians understood a need and stepped up to the plate with a yes vote, funding the $50 million dollar Housing Trust Fund to build affordable housing in this great city,” she said.
Question 3 approved removing two small tracts of land totaling less than 12 acres in the Northland from the city’s park system that were to have been used for the proposed Tiffany Spring Parkway but are no longer needed since the proposed parkway has been realigned.
Removing this small amount of land from the park system had been approved by the Board of Parks & Recreation Commissioners, subject to voter approval.
Help for Kids
Jackson County Question 1 to remove the expiration date and extend the county’s children’s services sales tax in perpetuity and double its rate from one-eighth cent to one-fourth cent was approved overwhelmingly by county voters by over a three to one margin.
The tax extension and increase was approved 76.2% to 23.8% according to unofficial election results.
The children’s services sales tax originally approved by county voters in 2016 provides needed services to children and youth in the county who have been victims of abuse, homelessness, neglect or other serious threats to their well-being and healthy development.
Services provided to at-risk Jackson County children and youth and their families by area charities and school districts include counseling, crisis intervention, prevention programs and temporary shelter. Oversight is provided by an independent nine-member citizen board appointed by the county executive.
Children’s Services Fund Executive Director Rob Whitten said after the tax extension’s passage that the increased tax is estimated to generate nearly $32 million annually which will enable the program to serve more of the most vulnerable children and youth throughout the county.
In the south Kansas City area the sales tax provides funding for several programs that benefit at-risk children and youth such as the Community Assistance Council’s Hickman Mills Empower program that provides a wide variety of direct assistance to the families of district students to help assure family stability and the Center School District’s program to have fulltime social workers in all of its elementary schools.
“Community Assistance Council is so grateful voters recognized the value of this fund that serves the county’s most vulnerable children,” said Rachel Casey, executive director of the Community Assistance Council.