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Archive for Sunday, March 2, 2008

Kansas City Union Station officials support a property-tax increase

March 2, 2008

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— Union Station wants a property-tax increase to help maintain the facility and become financially solvent.

But the idea isn't winning support from city officials, and it's the City Council that would have to put the property-tax measure on the ballot.

"It seems to me that is a regional facility that the region ought to be taking care of," said Mayor Mark Funkhouser.

An ad hoc committee of community and foundation leaders presented recommendations Friday that included a 5-cent tax on Kansas City property owners, which would raise about $2.6 million a year. The committee, which was created to monitor how well Union Station responded to a 2005 report that assessed the station's finances, said the station also should ask foundations and corporations to contribute $5.2 million a year for 10 years to create a $52 million endowment.

The station's board, which is separate from the ad hoc committee, endorsed the panel's recommendations. The tax revenue and interest from the endowment would allow Union Station to cover its upkeep and expand its educational programming, station officials said.

"I think this is really good, and it's important because it takes us to where we should be," said Union Station board member Bob Regnier.

A 5-cent tax would equal about $9.50 per year on a house appraised at $100,000.

Union Station charges for entrance to its Science City museum and special exhibits and events. It also has theaters, restaurants and meeting spaces that garner money. However, under the compact between Kansas and Missouri that made the depot's restoration possible, about 40 percent of the station is public space that can't be leased or ticketed to produce revenue.

The committee said the tax funding is justifiable because Union Station still has to pay to maintain that space, at a cost the panel estimated at $2.6 million a year.

"There is a public benefit to being able to walk in the door to look up and enjoy the architectural splendor of the building and not spend one red cent," said Warren Erdman, chairman of the committee.

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