Baldwin City to ask voters for additional half-cent sales tax to rehab brick streets

photo by: Elvyn Jones/Journal-World

The Baldwin City Council has placed a half-cent sales tax proposal before city voters for the Nov. 8 general election that would dedicate the revenue from the tax to rehabilitating 14 blocks of the city's 28 blocks of brick streets, including the downtown blocks of High Street, shown here Sunday, Sept. 18, 2022.

The Baldwin City government will ask city residents to approve on the November ballot an additional half cent of sales tax authority to be used to rehabilitate brick streets in its historic district.

Baldwin City Mayor Casey Simoneau said that the City Council in June approved placing the sales tax referendum before voters. If approved, the additional half cent in sales tax, which would be permanent, would be added to the existing 1.25-cent sales tax the city collects on retail sales in Baldwin City to help pay for various infrastructure needs. With county and state sales taxes, approval of the measure would increase the total amount of sales tax charged in Baldwin City to 9.5 cents on $1 of retail sales.

The additional sales tax would become effective in January 2023 and would provide the city an estimated $250,000 in revenue at the city’s current sales tax collection rate, Baldwin City Administrator Glenn Rodden said.

Simoneau said the decision to advance the sales tax came after the City Council developed a list of brick streets that most enhance the historic character of the city. The 14 blocks of the city’s 28 blocks of brick streets identified include downtown sections of High Street and Eighth Street and the streets around the Baker University campus.

In addition to adding to the city’s historic character, brick streets are much more durable than asphalt or concrete streets, an informational video on the Baldwin City YouTube site says. Brick streets last 80 to 100 years if properly maintained, while asphalt streets can be expected to last 15 years and concrete streets at least 30 years with proper maintenance.

The expectation is to use the sales tax revenue to leverage grants, which would pay for the majority of the work to rehabilitate the brick streets, Simoneau said. That would duplicate a strategy that the city has used in recent years to add sidewalks and multi-use concrete trails.

“We leveraged a $1 million city investment in sidewalks to secure $4 million in grants for sidewalks,” he said. “We want to bond the sales tax revenue to leverage grant money to help with our brick streets.”

That strategy would necessitate that the city phase in the improvements over something like a 10-year period, Simoneau said.

Those brick streets not on the priority list would not be replaced with other paving options, and the city would make patch repairs where most needed.

The city has already scheduled two informational meetings in October on the sales tax proposal, and Simoneau said he expected at least two more meetings would be scheduled. The currently scheduled meetings will be at 5 p.m. Oct. 6 and 5 p.m. Oct. 24 at the Baldwin City Library.

Simoneau said the City Council decided to ask voters to approve the sales tax in part because of a survey last year that asked residents how they would prefer to pay for improvements to the old gymnasium on Chapel Street. The survey indicated residents were overwhelmingly opposed to increasing property taxes for that project. That information plus other positive developments suggested this was the time to ask voters to approve the sales tax, he said.

“We’ve made a concentrated effort the past five years to increase our sales tax revenue,” he said. “It’s been increasing 7% a year. Now with the train (Midland Railway) coming back and other things, it just seemed like the time.”


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