Archive for Wednesday, December 26, 2001

Blaze could affect city taxes

December 26, 2001

Bad news never has good timing.

And the fire that destroyed several businesses and damaged others Dec. 15 in the Basehor shopping center at 155th Street and State Avenue couldn't have come at a more inopportune time.

The fire leaves the city without its only area of retail sales and has caused three business owners to call it quits.

Mark Bichelmeyer said he had no plans to reopen his grocery mart, causing 15 part- and full-time employees to lose their jobs.

Rumsey's Retail Liquor and Pat's Shampoo Hut and Tanning Salon will also close their doors permanently.

The three businesses were located on the east side of the shopping center, where the building sustained the most damage.

Although many of the businesses located west of the grocery store have said they will return, the loss of the three closed businesses means the city will lose out on sales tax revenue once generated.

On average, the city collects an estimated $90,000 a year in retail sales tax, with a good portion coming from the grocery and liquor stores.

The loss of the liquor store also means the city loses out on a portion of its liquor tax. Funds from the liquor tax were used for park maintenance and projects, city officials said.

It is not yet known how much the business closings will affect the city.

"I don't see how this can positively affect anything," said Baron Powell, Basehor city treasurer.

Basehor Mayor Bill Hooker said he remained optimistic the city would weather the financial blow.

"It is not a 100 percent loss," he said. "It does hurt, but we do have other businesses. I think we'll survive."

Hooker said city money could be moved around to offset the loss in sales tax revenue.

The future of the building itself remains unclear. Building owners Dennis and Debbie Breuer have yet to state publicly their intentions for the building.

Should the building be repaired, new businesses could be found to replace the outgoing ones, said Susan Guy, Basehor Chamber of Commerce president.

Guy said the chamber has received several inquiries from businesses looking for available office space this year.

"There's no available office space anywhere right now, but I think there will be businesses that can fill the void left by the businesses that don't reopen," she said.

Two new city programs could affect the building if the owners decide to rebuild.

The Basehor City Council recently approved a neighborhood revitalization program and a transportation excise tax.

The revitalization program offers commercial and residential property owners making improvements up to a 95 percent property tax break from the city.

On the other hand, the excise tax charges businesses or residences nine cents per square foot on improvements totaling more than 51 percent of the property value.

The excise tax probably won't become effective until March, so improvements made to the building before then wouldn't be assessed, city officials said.

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