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Archive for Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Lawrence city commissioners seek signage for taxing districts

August 24, 2011

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Special taxing districts deserve special signs.

City commissioners at their meeting on Tuesday directed staff to bring back a policy that will require any business in the city charging a sales tax above the standard community-wide rate to post a sign alerting customers of the higher tax.

“I think we have to mandate signage,” said City Commissioner Mike Dever. “We have to ensure that shoppers know they’re choosing to shop at a location despite an additional tax.”

Lawrence currently has two special taxing districts — the Bauer Farm development on the northeast corner of Sixth and Wakarusa and The Oread hotel development near Kansas University. But other proposals have come up in recent months, and the public has asked questions about whether the special taxes, which can be up to 2 percent, are being fairly communicated to shoppers.

Under the proposal commissioners generally agreed to on Tuesday — no formal vote was taken — the two existing special taxing districts would be required to post signs, as well as any future taxing districts. But details about the signs were left undecided.

Commissioner Bob Schumm said he thought businesses should be required to put a sign out on the public right-of-way, next to the business’ main sign, so that motorists would know about the tax before deciding to pull into a merchant’s parking lot.

“I just think it is a transparency issue,” Schumm said.

Previously, proposals for signs have called for them to be placed on the front door of a business or near the cash register. City Manager David Corliss said his staff would have to research what the city can legally dictate in terms of sign placement.

Commissioners are expected to formally vote on a policy in the next four to six weeks, following staff research on the sign issue and other topics.

In addition to the signs, commissioners asked staff members to bring back a policy that:

• Created more specific criteria for when businesses can qualify for a Community Improvement District or a Transportation Development District, both of which allow for a special sales tax to be charged;

• Adds language requiring businesses applying for the special taxing district to show that the project will not be feasible without the special tax;

• Limits how a business can use the proceeds of a special tax. State law allows taxes generated in a Community Improvement District to be used for a variety of public and private development expenses. Commissioners, however, are proposing that the city only allow the taxes to be used for public infrastructure expenses and a handful of private expenses related to the exterior of commercial buildings or other features that would be noticeable to the public.

In other news, commissioners decided to not take a formal position yet on whether Lawrence should be included in one or two congressional districts as part of the redistricting process.

Mayor Aron Cromwell and Schumm both said they could see advantages to having the city entirely within one district, likely the 2nd Congressional District, which likely would include both Manhattan and Topeka.

But the remaining commissioners said they want to monitor public sentiment further before taking an official position. The state legislature is expected to make decisions on redistricting, which occurs once a decade, early in the 2012 session.

A public hearing on the issue will be held by the legislature’s Special Committee on Redistricting at 9 a.m. Sept. 2 at the Dole Institute of Politics on Kansas University’s West Campus.

Comments

Ron Holzwarth 3 years, 4 months ago

We don't need signs to alert us that we are being charged extra tax at certain locations.

For the very same reasons, we do not need to know the price of an item before we buy it.

We'll see the total amount on our credit card bill later, won't we?

lunacydetector 3 years, 4 months ago

could the city commission also require little signs....like stickers....be placed on items to be purchased......a price tag, so the consumer knows how much the cash register computer price differs from the lower price on the shelf? include that with the sign ordinance.....'consumers be aware there may be a price increase of 50% from the shelf price to the cash register price'

lunacydetector 3 years, 4 months ago

that should apply everywhere, or have the price tag include the sales tax on the price tag....even better. :)

lunacydetector 3 years, 4 months ago

that sign is sweet....make sure the city pays you for your design.

Sigmund 3 years, 4 months ago

"In other news, commissioners decided to not take a formal position yet on whether Lawrence should be included in one or two congressional districts as part of the redistricting process."

If Commissioners want to be involved in party politics like redistricting then they should be required to declare party affiliation when they run for office.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 3 years, 4 months ago

How is stating an opinion on whether Lawrence is split between two districts or placed in a single district playing party politics?

Sigmund 3 years, 4 months ago

“I think we have to mandate signage,” said City Commissioner Mike Dever. “We have to ensure that shoppers know they’re choosing to shop at a location despite an additional tax.”

So the Commission decides they must warn us of their policies. This is a trend that needs to continue.

jafs 3 years, 4 months ago

I'm very glad to see this happening.

Especially if the signs are in fact posted at the entrances, so that people will know before they pull into a parking lot.

And, I'm also glad to see them limiting the uses of the "tax" a bit.

It will be interesting to see if requests to be part of a CID, etc. go down as a result of the sign requirements - that would validate my sense that the only reason these would work better than just raising prices a little is if people aren't aware of it.

Sigmund 3 years, 4 months ago

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus (anonymous) replies… "How is stating an opinion on whether Lawrence is split between two districts or placed in a single district playing party politics?"

Redistricting or gerrymandering is practice that attempts to establish a political advantage for a particular party or group by manipulating geographic boundaries to create partisan, incumbent-protected districts. It has no purpose than to increase the power of one political party over another. If the Commission is going to play this game of power politics then they should declare which political party they represent on the ballot at election. Why shouldn't Commissioners declare their party affiliations, is there something to be ashamed of?

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 3 years, 4 months ago

Stating their opinions on whether Lawrence should be split between one or two districts is neither "redistricting nor gerrymandering." They have no power or authority to do either, but there are many reasons for wishing Lawrence to be split, or not, and it has little or nothing to do with party politics.

"Why shouldn't Commissioners declare their party affiliations, is there something to be ashamed of?"

City commission elections are by statute "non-partisan." I expect that if you're really interested, the commissioners would be happy to tell you with which party, if any, they are affiliated. Why not ask them if it's so all fired important to you?

rwwilly 3 years, 4 months ago

I would have to agree with you. Rendering an opinion/recommendation as to whether one or two districts is justified does not constitute gerrymandering and declaring partisanship would seem to be in direct conflict of the city's non-partisan policy.

ivalueamerica 3 years, 4 months ago

The other commissioners need to wait and gauge public opinion?

Have they really not heard us yet?

ModerateOne 3 years, 4 months ago

The city's interest in being split into more than one Congressional districts is surely political, but why is it necessarily partisan, Sigmund?

Bassetlover 3 years, 4 months ago

I recently made a huge purchase at Discovery Furniture here in town last month. Am wondering if they are also allowed to charge the higher tax rate because I challenged them on the rate (sorry, can't remember now what it was), as the percentage seemed higher than what I normally pay. I thought perhaps they were allowed to charge a higher rate since they are a relatively new business.

Adrienne Sanders 3 years, 4 months ago

There's no "relatively new business special tax rate." The only special tax districts in town are the ones mentioned in the article. So either you were overcharged, or you were mistaken about what the tax rate is. It'd be a good idea to find out before challenging anyone over it.

jafs 3 years, 4 months ago

I had some similar experiences and reported them to the city manager's office - they're supposed to be looking into the situation. Once I started checking, I found several instances in which I had been charged more tax than was correct, and one instance where I was charged less tax.

Sales taxes should be 8.85% everywhere in town except the 2 places mentioned in the article - Bauer Farms and The Oread Inn.

When I spoke with their office, I suggested that businesses be required to show the tax rate on their receipts - it would make it much easier to make sure they're charging the correct tax. They're considering that idea.

Kontum1972 3 years, 4 months ago

these guys sure do like to spend our money....

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 3 years, 4 months ago

There should also be a separate line on all receipts for the amount that goes to the "special tax." I'd think it'd pretty easy to do.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 3 years, 4 months ago

The city/county/school district should also require that they get a 20% cut. So if the business wants to collect 1%, the tax would actually be 1.25%, with the .25% going to the local governmental entities.

Richard Heckler 3 years, 4 months ago

Advising consumers of an additional sales on a right of way sign is probably not the best idea. People need to be paying attention to driving.

How about signs advising consumers: 1. At every entry 2. on every cashier station 3. in absolutely plain sight

Are these tax dollar moochers too ashamed of their actions? I say why have this tax mooching tool in the first place?

Tax incentives actually drain our wallets and increase taxes somehow. Face it somehow these tax dollar handouts are picked up by we taxpayers. How this is hidden by city government and city commissioners is one of the big questions.

I say if Lowes will not locate in Lawrence because we taxpayers want them to pay their own way so be it. Don't bother I will be fine without Lowe's as I have been the past 25 years.

How can anyone worship a home improvement store or a Baur Farm junk food heaven?

WilburM 3 years, 4 months ago

The whole special tax issue is fraught with unfairness. This is just not very good policy, especially if there is no transparency. Even with signs, most folks won't pay attention (e.g., visitors at the Oread). I'd say get rid of this entire policy and let the development chips fall where they may. Indeed, these kinds of taxes may well encourage developments like the Oread that are economically risky. W/o the subsidies, would the developers take the risk? Just slough it off on the consumers.

Sigmund 3 years, 4 months ago

merrill (anonymous) says… "How about signs advising consumers: 1. At every entry 2. on every cashier station 3. in absolutely plain sight"

  1. A list of the Commissioners who voted for the CID.

Sigmund 3 years, 4 months ago

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus (anonymous) replies… "City commission elections are by statute "non-partisan."

What statute is that? Couldn't find a Kansas statute or a city ordinance that "requires" them to be non-partisan, but they may. Advocating on behalf of one redistricting plan or another that will directly affect the mix of voters in a district, is clearly political. If our Commissioners are going to use what influence they do have, by virtue of being elected, to impact that political process, then their political affiliation should be on the ballot. Beyond that I agree with you that there should be no objection to putting party affiliation on the City Commission ballot.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 3 years, 4 months ago

I don't know what statute it is, but quit playing games. Regardless of whether you think it's a good idea, you know damn well that municipal elections in Kansas are non-partisan.

And there are many reasons for wanting Kansas to be in a single district that aren't party-oriented. So unless you have specific evidence that they are concerned about this purely as partisans, I say you're just projecting your own partisanship onto commissioners.

thefactsare 3 years, 4 months ago

Do any of you shop in Overland Park, Lenexa, Olathe, KCK, Leawood, Ottawa, Topeka, Roland Park or Bonner Springs? Are you upset that they don't have signs advising you of the sales tax for special districts and have you started boycotting these places as well?

clovis_sangrail 3 years, 4 months ago

I don't. I have avoided those places for years.

Sigmund 3 years, 4 months ago

thefactsare (anonymous) says… "Do any of you shop in Overland Park, Lenexa, Olathe, KCK, Leawood, Ottawa, Topeka, Roland Park or Bonner Springs? Are you upset that they don't have signs advising you of the sales tax for special districts and have you started boycotting these places as well?"

Not being a voter in Overland Park, Lenexa, Olathe, KCK, Leawood, Ottawa, Topeka, Roland Park, or Bonner Springs I don't have any say on who gets elected and what policies they have. I can tell you I do boycott Bauer Farms and wont recommend The Oread Inn to friends and family that comes to town.

I also will never do business with the following Crony Capitalist who see tax payer dollars are their own personal source of Corporate Welfare for their private businesses: Tellers, 746 Mass: George Paley, Lawrence Masonic Temple (whatever it becomes), 1001 Mass: Consolidated Properties, aka Doug Compton, Buffalo Bob's, 719 Mass: Bob Schumm, Goldmakers, Peter Zacharias, The Bayleaf, 725 Mass: Anne Yetman, The Casbah, 803 Mass, David Millstein, Hobbs, 700 Mass, Mark Swanson, Silverworks and More, James & Cara Connelly.

These businesses do not need my business as they have their fists in the public treasury. I prefer to spend my money with those businesses who are less well connected and compete on a level playing field, even if it costs me a few extra dollars.

thefactsare 3 years, 4 months ago

So you would rather spend your money in other communities and let them reap the sales tax benefits then support your own community?

jafs 3 years, 4 months ago

Teller's has a new owner - you might want to re-think that one.

Other than that, good for you for putting your money where your mouth is.

Sigmund 3 years, 4 months ago

"Commissioner Bob Schumm said he thought businesses should be required to put a sign out on the public right-of-way, next to the business’ main sign, so that motorists would know about the tax before deciding to pull into a merchant’s parking lot. "

I will be looking for the sign at Buffalo Bill's to notifying customers of your tax subsidized fire sprinklers. God what a hypocrite you are!

Sigmund 3 years, 4 months ago

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus (anonymous) replies… "I don't know what statute it is, but quit playing games. Regardless of whether you think it's a good idea, you know damn well that municipal elections in Kansas are non-partisan."

So you couldn't find that statute either. Fact of the matter is municipal election can be either partisan or non-partisan. Advocating on behalf of one redistricting plan or another that will directly affect the mix of voters in a district, is clearly political. If our Commissioners are going to use what influence they do have, by virtue of being elected, to impact that political process, then their political affiliation should be on the ballot. Beyond that I agree with you that there should be no objection to putting party affiliation on the City Commission ballot.

Sigmund 3 years, 4 months ago

thefactsare (anonymous) replies… "So you would rather spend your money in other communities and let them reap the sales tax benefits then support your own community?"

I thought I was clear, those businesses that have their fists in the public treasury don't need my business. I prefer to spend my money with those businesses who are less well connected and compete on a level playing field, even if it costs me a few extra dollars.

jafs (anonymous) replies… "Teller's has a new owner - you might want to re-think that one. Other than that, good for you for putting your money where your mouth is."

Didn't know that, thanks for the info...

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