Archive for Wednesday, March 27, 2002

Special election draws near

March 27, 2002

In an upcoming special election, Basehor residents will decide whether city officials can proceed with plans to implement a transportation excise tax.

Voting for the special election will be from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday, April 2, at Basehor-Linwood High School

At two public meetings March 21 and 25, residents and city officials met for question-and- answer sessions concerning the excise tax and its abilities.

The excise tax is a 9 cents per square foot levy applied to new development and those that remodel more than 51 percent of their homes assessed valuation.

A cap of $10,000 has been placed on the remodeling portion of the levy.

City officials said the money garnered from the excise tax would be used for obtaining matching fund grants from the Kansas Department of Transportation for road improvements.

The streets needing improvements are 150th, 155th, 158th, Parallel and Leavenworth Road, city officials said.

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

"What we need are good, functional, improved roads," said Mike Hooper, Basehor city codes administrator.

All told, city officials estimate the street improvements will cost approximately $14 million.

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

"There is no way in the next five to 10 years we are going to raise $14 million but (with the excise tax) we can raise some," Hooper said.

It remains unclear what kind of KDOT grant the city would apply for, however, five grants are available to city and county governments.

The lack of funding and the need for road improvements are what city officials hope voters will consider April 2.

However, turnout for the public meetings was low.

Less than 30 people attended the two meetings combined, far less than what city officials expected.

Basehor Mayor Bill Hooker said he was disappointed with the turnout, but encouraged residents to vote in the April 2 election nonetheless.

"We were very disappointed (with the turnout)," Hooker said. "We fully expected over 100 people for the two meetings."

Although disappointed, it appears city officials will make changes to the excise tax because of the public feedback they received at the meetings.

"We're going to definitely make some changes," Hooker said.

One change includes reducing or eliminating the fee for remodeling, he said.

Another is excluding schools and other public entities from paying the excise tax for new construction, Hooker added.

As of now, rebuilding a home destroyed by fire would fall under the umbrella of the excise tax.

Hooker said that would probably be changed and houses destroyed by fire could be listed under an "Act of God" provision.

The city had previously approved a charter ordinance for the excise tax in December.

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

Opponents of the excise tax have said it would harm future economic development and discourage residential developers from locating to the city.

City officials disagree.

"Based on the number of calls we get, I don't think it will keep business away," Hooper said.

Members of the Basehor Chamber of Commerce are split on whether they favor the excise tax.

Chamber of Commerce president Kathy Bontrager said chamber members could not come to a consensus on the excise tax.

Excise tax opponents said signs will be posted around the city and fliers will be sent out stating their opposition and urging residents to vote no April 2.

Should the excise tax fail, city officials said other measures, such as a road impact fee or increasing the mill levy, could be taken to secure funds lost from the excise tax.

If voters approve the excise tax April 2, the city would begin work on a second ordinance that describes the particular mechanics of the levy.

That would probably occur at the April 15 Basehor City Council meeting, Hooper said.

There was some concern that the city was violating state law when advertising the public meetings.

It appears the city did not violate state election statutes in a flier sent to city residents announcing the public meetings.

Leavenworth County counselor David Van Parys said county officials reviewed the flier and it would not be turned over to the Leavenworth County District Attorney's office for prosecution.

"I have no opinion; this is not a county issue," Van Parys said.

The Sentinel will post a story about the special election voting results on its Web site, www.basehorinfo.com, Tuesday night after results are announced.

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