By John Sharp
Voters who live in both Jackson County and Kansas City will decide the fate of three ballot measures – two proposed by the city and one proposed by the county – in the special election Tuesday, November 7.
All three require approval by a simple majority of those voting, and there appears to be no widespread organized opposition to any of them.
Jackson County Question 1
Jackson County Question 1 would authorize the county to impose a use tax (similar to a sales tax) on purchases of goods for use in Jackson County from out-of-state vendors when no sales tax has been paid on such purchases.
Sales taxes are collected on in-store purchases from out-of-state vendors for the governments where such stores are located, and Missouri sales taxes are collected on online purchases from out-of-state vendors with a physical presence anywhere in Missouri. All such sales would be exempt from the proposed use tax.
The use tax would be applied only to purchases of goods from out-of-state vendors that are not currently taxed such as catalog or online sales from vendors without a presence in Missouri.
The tax would be equal to the county’s sales tax rate which county and campaign officials have listed at 1.375% and would take effect on April 1 if approved by voters and enacted by the county legislature.
This would level the playing field between local vendors that have to charge the county sales tax and out-of-state competitors with no physical presence in Missouri that are exempt from paying sales tax on some purchases such as catalog or online sales which puts local vendors at a competitive disadvantage.
County officials have estimated the use tax will bring in about $35 million annually. They have estimated that the great majority of this amount would come from business purchases of expensive equipment and supplies.
The ballot language for Question 1 notes the tax is for financing road and bridge construction projects within the county – including projects within the corporate limits of cities within the county, for financial assistance to homeless persons and persons at risk of becoming homeless, and for renovations and repairs to the Jackson County Courthouse in downtown Kansas City and the Eastern Jackson County Courthouse and Historic Truman Courthouse in Independence.
Campaign and county officials have proposed using about $20 million of the new revenue annually for long overdue renovations and repairs of the three county courthouses, $10 million for bridge, street and trail projects and $5 million for assisting homeless persons and preventing homelessness.
Making significant county funding available for urgently needed major street and bridge improvements within cities in the county would be welcome news to city residents since all county property owners pay county taxes, but county road and bridge improvements in recent years have focused on unincorporated areas since the county stopped funding the County Urban Road System (CURS) agreement years ago.
A major local project funded largely by CURS was the widening of Longview Road from Blue Ridge Blvd. to Raytown Rd., including installing curbs and sidewalks on both sides of the street from Blue Ridge almost to Raytown Rd. near the site of the former Smith-Hale Middle School.
KC Question 1
Kansas City Question 1 would approve a 10-year extension of KCMO’s current 3/8 of a cent sales tax to support bus service in the city by the Kansas City Area Transportation Authority (KCATA) which is now scheduled to expire in March 2024.
The ballot language says funding from the tax renewal will be used for developing, operating, maintaining, equipping and improving the city’s bus transit system, pursuant to a contract with the KCATA.
The sales tax, much of which is paid by out-of-town visitors, generates approximately 30% of KCATA’s budget. City and KCATA officials have warned that its defeat would necessitate major reductions in service such as decreasing the frequency of service on routes and/or eliminating some routes. Layoffs also would be likely.
Decreased bus service would make it much more difficult for many city residents without reliable personal transportation to get to work, thus increasing unemployment, while also making it more difficult for them to access other needed services.
It also would make it more difficult for some businesses that don’t pay high salaries or require advanced training to recruit adequate numbers of employees.
KC Question 2
Kansas City Question 2 would allow the city to remove a small tract of approximately 5.4 acres of vacant and undeveloped land in the northland from the city’s park system and sell it through a competitive public process.
The Board of Parks & Recreation Commissioners has determined that the small tract north of NE 32nd Ter. and between N. Oak Trfwy. & N. Holmes is no longer necessary or appropriate for park, parkway or boulevard use.
Under the city charter, disposing of any park property requires a public vote.