Lawrence Mayor Mike Amyx is supporting an idea to require businesses that charge a special sales tax to place a sign on their front doors to notify consumers.
Amyx said Friday he’s heard from a lot of consumers who are concerned about new retail districts that charge a special sales tax rate to pay for everything from sidewalks to security.
“I think people just want to know up front if they are paying a sales tax that is different than what is considered the norm,” Amyx said.
Amyx said he also supports a proposal that would require special taxing districts to win a super majority from the City Commission, meaning proposals would require four of the five votes on the commission.
City commissioners will consider the proposals Tuesday.
Some members of the business community are expected to oppose the measures, which are stricter than other cities in the state.
Matthew Gough, an attorney with Lawrence-based Barber Emerson, said the new regulations could discourage retailers from doing business in Lawrence.
“As far as a dollars and cents impact, the people I’ve talked to just don’t know what effect it will have, but they all feel it is not in their best interest to put a scarlet letter on their business,” Gough said.
Gough also said the special taxing districts are particularly useful for infill developments and other tough-to-finance projects. He said if the city complicates the process of creating special taxing districts, retailers may add to urban sprawl by building on the edge of the community where development can be simpler.
City staff members are recommending, if commissioners want to move forward, that signs be at least 8 inches by 8 inches, that the font be at least 36 points in size, and that the sign be placed at the primary entrance of a store. The sign would be required to state the percentage rate of the special sales tax being charged.
The issue has come up as more retailers have asked to create Community Improvement Districts in Lawrence. The Community Improvement Districts allow property owners to create a district where up to an extra 2 percent sales tax can be charged on sales made within the district. The extra tax revenue can be used by property owners to pay for both public and private improvements, ranging from storm sewers to actual store buildings.
A development group that owns property near 23rd and Ousdahl has requested a CID to revamp several older buildings near the intersection. Lowe’s also has expressed interest in a CID for a proposed store near Sixth Street and Folks Road.
Lawrence currently doesn’t have any CIDs, but does have two similar types of districts. The Oread, the hotel at 12th and Indiana, charges an extra 1 percent tax that helps pay for public infrastructure and a parking garage that serves the hotel. Businesses on the northeast corner of Sixth and Wakarusa also charge a 1 percent special tax to pay for multiple public improvements in the area.
The city recently has created a sales tax page on its website — lawrenceks.org — that will list all special taxing districts in the city.
Commissioners meet at 6:35 p.m. Tuesday at City Hall.