Archive for Saturday, August 25, 2007

Support for sales tax gaining momentum

Commissioners leaning toward increase; voters would have to approve plan

Craig Nowatzke, right, owner of "SunDog," an outdoor food cart, makes change for Jon Klassen, Lawrence, Friday in downtown Lawrence. Four of five city commissioners support the idea of raising the sales tax to provide a new multimillion dollar revenue source for the city.

Craig Nowatzke, right, owner of "SunDog," an outdoor food cart, makes change for Jon Klassen, Lawrence, Friday in downtown Lawrence. Four of five city commissioners support the idea of raising the sales tax to provide a new multimillion dollar revenue source for the city.

August 25, 2007


Support for a new citywide sales tax is continuing to grow inside City Hall.

On Friday, the list of commissioners expressing support for some type of new sales tax grew to four. Commissioner Rob Chestnut said he's convinced that the city needs a new revenue source, and believes that a sales tax would be fairer than a property tax.

"I'm looking at property owners here, and they have seen a very rapid increase in costs over the last several years," Chestnut said. "A sales tax does start to spread the costs to folks who may not be residents here."

That leaves Commissioner Mike Dever as the lone commissioner expressing skepticism about the need for a new sales tax.

"I still believe the city needs to do more looking within before we start asking the community for new money," Dever said. "I really believe that."

A half-percent sales tax is estimated to raise between $5 million and $6 million per year. Any new sales tax, by state law, must be approved by voters in a citywide election.

Commissioners are scheduled to have their most detailed sales tax discussion yet at a study session at 4 p.m. Monday at City Hall.

Much of the discussion may center on what a new sales tax should fund. Commissioners are far from a consensus on that issue. Commissioner Mike Amyx previously has proposed a half-percent sales tax that would sunset after five years. It would be used to fund street and sidewalk repairs, and new infrastructure projects designed to make the city more attractive to new companies.

But in recent days, commissioners Chestnut, Boog Highberger and Mayor Sue Hack have said they want to see if there were room to add at least one "amenity project" onto the list of items to be funded by a sales tax.

Highberger is pushing for it to be a new downtown library project, while Chestnut and Hack said they would consider either the library or a proposal to add recreation facilities to the community.

On Friday, Highberger added a twist to the debate. He said perhaps the city should be considering not one but, rather, two sales tax proposals. Highberger said he wants to explore a small sales tax - something less than a quarter percent - that could be used to fund construction of a new library.

Unlike Amyx's proposal, the second sales tax would not sunset after five years. Instead, it would be permanent, or last at least 30 years to pay for the library bonds. Highberger said the commission could put that sales tax question on the ballot in addition to the infrastructure sales tax proposed by Amyx.

Voters could choose to support both, one or none.

"I think we need to prioritize our needs and give them to the public and let the public give us a thumbs up or thumbs down," Highberger said. "But I feel like we need to put something before the voters on the library soon."

Hack said Highberger's idea of two separate ballot questions was intriguing.

"That could be a good compromise," the mayor said.

It would not be one that would sway Dever. He said if he ultimately does decide to support a sales tax, it would need to be for infrastructure and for economic development purposes.

"The only way I would feel comfortable supporting a new sales tax is if it would be used to take care of what we already have, and to attract new businesses that could help take some of the financial burden off the existing community," Dever said.

Chestnut said he still wants more information on how many projects a half-percent sales tax could support. He said he wants to add an amenity project, but only if it doesn't short-change needed street and infrastructure improvements. Chestnut said he's not sure an amenity project needs to be added in order for a sales tax to win voter approval.

"Our last city survey showed that infrastructure is on everybody's mind," Chestnut said. "People want their streets to be better. I think a sales tax that accomplishes that could receive a lot of interest from the public."


50YearResident 10 years, 5 months ago

Who is supporting and adding momentum to this sales tax increase?

Richard Heckler 10 years, 5 months ago

A major problem with this LJW article is lack of details.

And statements such as this: "and new infrastructure projects designed to make the city more attractive to new companies." What type of new companies? When the city is overloaded with retail created by developers and commissioners that is a done deal which will be difficult to change. " new infrastructure projects" Again what are the commissioners talking about?

" amenity project" = The high dollar superdome for soccer an outdoor sport that should be played outdoors. "add recreation facilities to the community" again this must be the superdome which did not receive overwhelming support from the telephone survey. What is the likelihood of payback on this project, that will require a variety of staffing, considering the tremendous amount of competition from KCMO/JOCO and Topeka for these dollars? The city commission has no idea.

Why doesn't the commission be very specific instead of using vague terms such as " amenity project" ? Is it the superdome and/or a convention center attached to a private hotel? Spring Hill Suites,The Holidome and KU have convention space probably more than enough for a town the size of Lawrence.

The bottom line a sales tax proposal needs to be for specific projects not for "economic growth enhancements" or " amenity project" which could mean anything. Again after 25 years of allowing the developer/real estate industry to run the town and expand our tax base where is the money? Does Lawrence have many years of wrong decisions that were made without using the proper studies? The telephone survey regarding the superdome was not an economic impact study it was a popularity study again that which did not provide overwhelming support.

Richard Heckler 10 years, 5 months ago

If the library is put to a vote will it be a: 8 million dollar on site improvements 17 million dollar project ( no parking package)( only package that gets my vote) 30 million dollar project 50 million dollar project no improvements Why is a $10 million parking project attached to the cost of the library?

========= My vote is no on a superdome!!! Lawrence has space available in existing parks for more ball diamonds and outdoor soccer space plus YSI. =========

Both high schools could use The Free State Football field if citizens declare that field a neutral zone considering taxpayer dollars from all sides of town paid for it.

Yes older infrastructure needs attention. Why continue with new infrastructure when we cannot afford what we have?

jmadison 10 years, 5 months ago

Our politicians can't be trusted to do the right thing. They won't provide any property tax relief if a sales tax increase is approved. Look at the history of all the special sales tax increases in Lawrence in the past. No property tax abatement of any consequence or lasting duration. Also the school board would not feel bound to tame their voracious appetite for tax dollars.

Warren6032 10 years, 5 months ago

Will the new sale tax (if approved) be used to repair the streets (pot holes, curves and stuff), or be use to build ridiculous stuff like round-abouts?

Stew 10 years, 5 months ago

This is getting ridiculous. What is wrong with saying NO now a days? Or accepting the consequences of our actions. I mean it sucks that some previous commission did not plan for the future by saving each year for a newer library or city streets because now we have to suffer the consequences. But that is how life goes so let us be the strong ones and take the consequences of someone else's action and then not do the same to the next generation.

camper 10 years, 5 months ago

The hot dogs at Craig's corner are pretty darn good. Truly hits the spot if you are downtown and are hungry.

Sigmund 10 years, 5 months ago

No it's not. We want streets and roads a priority, not used as extortion after everything else is funded.

lunacydetector 10 years, 5 months ago amenity project = an luxury project - call it for what it is.

still wondering about the original design and engineering of the library way back when, wasn't it built with the intention of allowing a third floor for future expansion - or is this something totally bogus i heard or are the powers that be sweeping this info under the rug?

KS 10 years, 5 months ago

If they put a sales tax issue on the ballot and tell us it is for a library, they are continuing to waste our money. It will go down to defeat. If they put a sales tax issue on the ballot and tell us it is "solely" for streets and no economic development and that it will sunset in five years, it "might" pass.

cowboy 10 years, 5 months ago

Complete amateur hour , while the entire city staff and commission were incapable of reeling in their wasteful spending during the budget cycle , they now are trying to run their pipe dreams on a new tax proposal.

And lets note that last week they continued the spree of giving away city money by funding a concert downtown . Do any of them know how to read a balance sheet ?

This will have to go to the ballot and after it is voted down maybe they will get the hint that fiscal responsibility and accurate long term planning are the answers , not just passing new taxes to fund your fantasies !

Dorothy Hoyt-Reed 10 years, 5 months ago

I would vote for a tax if they put into writing that they will fix the roads on the east side of town. The residential roads are horrible, but have you driven down the heavily traveled 19th street near the high school? It's a mess, and our kids are driving on that everyday. Instead they want to "fix" Wakarusa, so those kids don't have to feel any bumps ever. I'll vote no unless there is some guarantee about where the money is going.

KS 10 years, 5 months ago

Cowboy, they don't need to know how to read a "balance sheet". They just need to look at the income statement. Big difference. That should tell them enough.

Godot 10 years, 5 months ago

Who would buy bonds backed by sales tax revenues in Lawrence when Lawrence has a track record of decreasing sales?

And financing for 30 years? The current library is deemed inadequate after only 35 years. Looks like our kids will just get this boondoggle paid off, and then will have to fund another one,

Godot 10 years, 5 months ago

putting two sales tax proposals on the same ballot is sheer criminal genius. Confuse people as to which they are voting on, obfuscate with paragraph upon paragraph of legalese printed in type so small you cannot read them in the poorly lit voting booths.....

The Chamber is going to be behind this, full throttle, so they will do considerable advertising to get it passed; and, of course, our own tax dollars will be used against us to pay for the campaign to pass the tax increases. No doubt the school district will get involved, too, using the bully pulpit of the teachers to tell the kiddies that, if their parents really love them, they must vote for the new library. I would not be surprised if they hold a mock sales tax election for the students so they can "learn" about the process,

Jaehde 10 years, 5 months ago

Surely we all know the property tax increase increase is a done deal. Who is pushing this agenda? Probably the same folks who heavily funded the campaigns of some of new comissioners. Personally, it won't make much difference financially, but for those with lots of property, it does. Who are the few that will get out and vote? Probably the same few as last election. Figure it out.

Nick Yoho 10 years, 5 months ago

How much revenue do the $2 parking tickets create?I'm no fan of tickets,but would $5 be unreasonable for anyone to pay?Parking tickets run $28.50 in KC.

Susan Mangan 10 years, 5 months ago

The nutcases can't be stopped. That's why the exodus is accelerating out of town. The census numbers (along with rental vacancy rates) confirm the mass exodus, but their tax projections don't count on people revolting and leaving, so they claim the numbers are wrong..."just look at the traffic on 23rd Street!"

Dumb***es are just going to have themselves to tax for their nice little "amenity projects" eventually.

situveux1 10 years, 5 months ago

This is absolutely the first time I've seen a comments thread on LJW that is COMPLETELY in agreement. Doesn't that say something about their tax and spend ideas?

What would happen if someone could find a reason to recall a commissioner? It wouldn't even have to be over the sales tax and it wouldn't even have to be all of them...just one would send a very strong message.

toefungus 10 years, 5 months ago

The only way I would support a sales tax increase is if it would reduce property taxes and property tax rates would not increase for 10 years minimum. We are actually increasing our tax burden. Home valuations are not rising and some are falling. Property taxes will not be enough next year, even with a new sales tax, to avoid raising. The Commissioners know this and are ramming through a sales tax to buy time and will be raising property taxes in two years, minimum! The roads around schools are being neglected as a form of advertising. See, we need more money. This is all outrageous. Voting against the increase is not just killing the sales tax, but telling government we have had enough!

grimpeur 10 years, 5 months ago

Impact fees.

$15 per square foot.

Do it now.

If a city can't figure out how or is stubbornly unwilling to make money off growth, it is forced to increase the burden on existing sources. Commissioners, if you refuse to consider this important and available revenue source, don't come to me asking for more money.

Larry Sherraden 10 years, 5 months ago

Gaining support? Where or Who? Not me or my friends.

gccs14r 10 years, 5 months ago

I've got company and don't have time to read all the comments, so I don't know if someone else already pointed this out, but a quick way to reduce retail sales (and by extension, tax receipts) in Lawrence is to raise the sales tax. If we were to reduce our sales tax below that of nearby cities, we would then draw their residents here to shop, importing their sales tax dollars.

Mari Aubuchon 10 years, 5 months ago

Good Grief! Half or even three-quarters percent is very, very little to ask to maintain our infrastructure and bring our library up to par. We are talking 50 to 75 CENTS for every $100 you spend. Do you really think that that will drive away potential shoppers? I really doubt it.

Also, how can anyone expect a library that was built to service a town that was half the current population to still function effectively? Stating that we should not be spending money on something that may have to eventually be improved or replaced is simply ludicrous. Do you take this same view of roads or fire engines?

I will vote YES for a sales tax increase.

situveux1 10 years, 5 months ago

Mari...when you feel like taking a break from la-la land you can come visit me in reality. The city budget is over a million bucks short and you think it's a good idea to spend $30 million on a library? If you didn't have enough money at the end of the month to pay rent would you go out and buy a $20,000 mini-van because eventually 5 or 10 years down the road you'll have kids and then you'll need that van? Get real! You're an idiot.

"Something that may have to eventually be improved or replaced".....

When it needs to be replaced then give me a call. Until then come back home to a real argument.

Who cares if it was only a penny for every $100 spent...why should I give up even a penny of my hard earned money for the city to piss it away. I need to save that penny to have my car re-aligned from driving on Lawrence streets.

janeyb 10 years, 5 months ago

Hasn't the LJW printed articles that sales tax collections are down in Lawrence because of the new shopping in Wyandotte county?

In addition to the money required to build a new library, a new and larger library will require more staff, collection development and security. The new Topeka library quickly became the free after-school care center. It is a nice library, but the unsupervised kids get wild.

Does the Lawrence library have fines? Topeka has no fines and the popular movies have to be replaced about every 3-6 months, because of damage or just failure to return. A new library building is only the beginning. Tax increases will be required every year to keep it staffed and updated.

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