Sales tax wins big
Leavenworth County voters decided overwhelmingly Tuesday to "pay a penny for progress."
The phrase was how County Commission Chairman Clyde Graeber described the proposed 1 percent countywide sales tax question that was backed by 65 percent of voters, 8,777-4,659. Lansing voters backed the tax, 1,385-793.
Wednesday morning, Graeber attributed voter approval of the tax to two main factors.
"First of all, it was an extension of the existing sales tax. And I think they looked at the proposals for spending the money and thought they were well thought out and advantageous to the county and its cities," he said.
The sales tax is expected to raise an estimated $63 million to be divided among the county and its cities, during its 10-year life. The city of Lansing is expected to receive about $630,000 annually for its share of the tax receipts.
The County Commission had identified its priorities for spending funds raised by the tax, which goes into effect on Jan. 1, 2007 - a day after the county's current 1 percent sales tax expires:
¢ Construction of the supporting road system for a new interchange in Leavenworth County on the Kansas Turnpike;
¢ Improvement of arterial road and bridge between Leavenworth and Tonganoxie;
¢ Improvement of County Road No. 8 from Kansas Highway 7 west to County Road No. 5;
¢ Enhance the communication system for local emergency responders;
¢ Additional road improvement projects.
The Lansing City Council also approved a list of sales tax funding priorities:
¢ City Hall expansion with room for the community library;
¢ Gilman Road improvements, from K-7 to DeSoto Road;
¢ DeSoto Road improvements, from Ida Street to Eisenhower Road;
¢ DeSoto Road Improvements, from 4-H Road to Ida Street;
¢ A new City Park;
¢ Economic development initiatives;
¢ Other infrastructure needs.
Leavenworth County is the most populous county along the turnpike without an exchange. That will all change once the county and the Turnpike Authority come to an agreement for access road improvements to a new exchange south of Tonganoxie, either along the existing County Road 1 alignment or another route.
Graeber said one of his first postelection tasks now will be to get in touch with Turnpike officials to begin that task.
"I'll be contacting Mike Johnston (president of the Turnpike Authority) to find out when we can sit down and work on the planning for this," Graeber said.
Despite the wide margin of victory for the sales tax, Graeber said he had his doubts about the success of the sales tax extension going into Tuesday's vote.
"There was some negativisms expressed at a number of the forums I attended," he said. "I just didn't anticipate winning by that amount."
The end result, though, pleased Graeber.
"I really appreciate the confidence the voters expressed, not only on the county's part, but for the various cities, too.