Letter: New Basehor City Council budget raises concern
To the Editor:
The Basehor City Council recently passed the 2002 budget. This budget increases the city mill levy by 12 mills. The primary reason for the increase was a deficit in the bond and interest account for the new sewer plant. I addressed the council (representing myself and not representing any organization) at the recent public hearing. The hearing centered how to pay for the new sewer plant by taxes or sewer user fees. One of my concerns was the fact that those of us not on sewers would be paying for the sewer plant. This was not supposed to happen. I realize the city needs the funding and asked the council to consider giving non-sewer property owners credit for the taxes they will be paying on the sewer plant. This credit would be used if the resident's property were later part of a sewer benefit district.
One of the most disturbing parts of the new budget is the fact that the mill levy for the general fund is being reduced by approximately four mills. Those four mills, in effect, are also being used for the sewer bonds, so we are actually paying 16 mills for the sewer plant and 10 mills for the general fund operation of the city.
The city also receives funding from franchise taxes, liquor taxes and sales tax. The voters in Basehor approved a half-cent sales tax dedicated for road improvements on two separate ballots. This one-cent sales tax plus the half-cent sales tax from the city's share of the county sales tax currently generates approximately $180,000 annually. This amount is placed in the general fund. The city, however, only budgeted approximately $79,000 for special highway (this funding comes from the state). I asked the council why the sales tax money was not used for road improvements. I was told that some of the money in the general fund is used for maintenance equipment, etc.
The city is now considering a new transportation excise tax of nine cents per square foot on the land area for any new construction projects and improvements of more than 50 percent on existing property. This excise tax would be for road improvements. This amounts to an additional $3,900 per acre to develop in Basehor. Our city needs new businesses. We also need better roads. But is the transportation excise tax the answer? Businesses interested in a city do their homework. Before they contact the city or the Chamber of Commerce, they already know what fees a city imposes on new business. They will use that cost basis in determining where they are going to locate. Given the options to locate anywhere, including inside or outside the city, everyone could lose by enacting this proposed excise tax.
Roads benefit everyone, but by imposing a surcharge on new development only a small segment is footing the bill. Should we expect new business and residents to pay for improvements that should have been made years ago?
It has taken years for our city to get enough infrastructure in place to lure new business to our community. We have sewers, improved water service, a four-lane highway and lots of rooftops. Putting roadblocks in place in the form of building fees will not bring in the new business.
New businesses mean more sales tax. If the city would start using the sales tax money for roads as promised to the voters, we would have better roads. The City Council has indicated that the 12-mill increase is just temporary. If this is the case, the city should wait one more year and budget the suggested five-mill levy for road improvements into the 2003 budget after the sewer plant crisis has been resolved. This would benefit all the citizens of Basehor.
P.S. The City Council will discuss the excise tax during a work session on Sept. 10 and decide whether it should be placed on the agenda for the September City Council meeting.