Residents file petition against new excise tax
Basehor residents have filed a petition with the county in hopes of defeating a City Council-approved transportation excise tax through a public vote.
The petition rekindles an ongoing argument between residents who say the excise tax would discourage economic development and city officials who say that without the tax, property taxes for all residents could increase.
The excise tax is a nine-cents-per-square-foot levy applied to new development and to property owners who make more than 51 percent improvement to their properties.
If an owner of a $100,000 home makes more than $51,000 in improvements to their property, the excise tax would apply.
City officials said the transportation tax would fund improvements to heavily-used streets such as 155th, 158th, 150th and Parallel Road.
However, those future road improvements appear to be in jeopardy.
A petition with more than 100 signatures was filed Tuesday, Jan. 29, with the Leavenworth County Clerk's Office.
Basehor resident Susan Guy has opposed the excise tax since it was first introduced by the city, and was one of the residents who signed and sought signatures for the petition.
"The excise tax is going to hurt business," Guy said. "It's going to hurt development.
"We have a right to take this to a vote as citizens. Things are getting out of hand."
It appears the excise tax, along with other factors, kept the city from gaining at least one business.
Dye and De Leon Family Restaurants had been planning to build a $2.5 million restaurant in the city, tentatively scheduled to locate near the Crestwood housing edition on 155th Street.
Basehor resident Pernell Dye, part owner in the Dye and De Leon company, said the excise tax, along with low demographics has caused the restaurant to choose another location.
"The city of Basehor is moving backward and not forward," Dye said. "The city needs to come up with things that promote business and not discourage economic development.
"You're talking quite a bit of money out of our pocket."
In looking more closely, the company decided the Basehor area could not support a restaurant of that magnitude, Dye said.
Instead, the company plans to locate the restaurant at the northwest corner of Kansas Highway 24/40 and Kansas 7 Highway.
"Being a hometown Basehor person we were really wanting to locate here," Dye said.
Although several residents oppose the transportation tax, city officials said it is still the fairest option.
Basehor Mayor Bill Hooker said the excise tax would keep the city from placing the burden on every taxpayer.
"The sad thing is that some people don't understand," Hooker said. "I don't think they understand what the funds would be used for and who is going to pay the excise tax."
City officials said if the excise tax fails, the city could have to raise the mill levy by 12 to 14 mills, roughly a 40 percent increase.
The current city mill levy is 28 mills. It was raised from 16 to 28 during the last budget session.
"The reason we proposed the excise tax is so new development and developers pay the cost, and not all citizens in the city," said Mike Hooper, Basehor city codes administrator. "(The development) is causing the need for improved roads. It doesn't effect anybody except those that remodel."
Both Hooper and Hooker said with the current city tax climate, funding road improvements would be impossible.
Hooker said doing away with the excise tax would be a mistake.
"I don't think it is. It is a mistake," he said.
The fate of the petition now lies with county officials, who must validate it before any further action is taken.
Linda Scheer, Leavenworth County clerk, said the validation process should be completed by the end of the week.
For the petition to be valid, at least 10 percent of last year's Basehor voters must have signed the petition.
There were 681 voters in the last election, so the petition must have 68 valid signatures.
There are several options that could decide the fate of the excise tax if the petition is valid.
The excise tax could be repealed by the city altogether, it could be placed on the ballot for the next election in August or a special election could be called, county officials said.
A charter ordinance, giving the city the power to implement the excise tax was approved by the Basehor City Council in November.
The exact functions and levies of the ordinance have not been finalized because the ordinance must pass a 61-day protest period. Before the petition, city officials expected the excise tax to be implemented in March.