Archive for Wednesday, April 3, 2002

Voters approve excise tax

Council to remove home improvements fee from the new charter

April 3, 2002

Basehor voters said yes to the city's transportation excise tax Tuesday night, with more than 61 percent of voters approving of the levy.

With 333 total votes cast in a special election April 2, 204 residents voted to approve the excise tax, 129, or approximately 38 percent, voted no.

"I'm very pleased, obviously, and very surprised at the large turnout," Basehor mayor Bill Hooker said.

Hooker said he was hopeful the excise tax would be approved.

"I did not have a feeling one way or the other," he said. "I was optimistic but I did not have a feeling on how it would come out."

The excise tax is a nine cents per square foot fee applied to new development.

The funds garnered from the excise tax would be used for obtaining matching fund grants from the Kansas Department of Transportation for road improvements.

To be eligible for the KDOT grants, the city must match 25 percent of the funds it's requesting from the state.

City officials said the roads needing improvement are 150th, 155th, 158th, Parallel and Leavenworth Road.

The improvements are expected to cost approximately $14 million, city officials said.

Improvements include widening roads to 36 feet, with curb and gutters, asphalt and storm drainage, and making the roads two lanes with a center turn lane.

Currently, the excise tax is also levied on those that remodel more than 51 percent of their property's assessed valuation.

A cap of $10,000 was placed on the remodeling portion of the excise tax.

However, city officials said the remodeling section would probably be changed or eliminated at the Basehor City Council meeting April 15.

"I think we're all in consensus to take out the remodeling clause," Basehor City Council member Burl Gratny said.

At the April meeting, council members are expected to decide on the particular mechanics of the levy and approve the excise tax charter ordinance.

The excise tax would then most likely become effective June 1, city officials said.

Gratny said he was surprised by the vote's outcome because of the small turnout for two public meetings concerning the excise tax in March.

"I thought with the poor turnout at the two meetings it was a dead issue, but I'm pretty elated (with the vote)," Gratny said.

However, not all Basehor officials were pleased with the outcome.

City Council President Joseph Scherer, who is also a local developer, said he was opposed to the excise tax.

The excise tax and other rising costs could scare off developers, he said.

"The excise tax itself won't scare off development because the cost is obviously going to be passed onto the customer," he said.

"The cost and the fees the city has passed over the last year is going to scare off developers. We're overpricing ourselves."

The Tuesday night vote brings an end to a period of debate between city officials and residents opposed to the excise tax.

In December, the city approved a charter ordinance for the excise tax.

However, a citizen petition signed by more than 100 residents was filed with the Leavenworth County Clerk's Office, causing the need for the special election.

Excise tax opponents said it would harm future economic development and discourage residential developers from building in the city.

Critics also said the city was scaring taxpayers into voting for the excise tax by threatening to raise the mill levy used to calculate property taxes by 20 mills.

City officials disagreed and said the excise tax would be levied on the developers that were causing the need for the improved roads, instead of every Basehor taxpayer.

If the excise tax did not pass, the city might have had to find alternative funding sources, which could have included raising the mill levy, which was one of several options the city was considering, officials said.

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