Leaders begin push to renew county sales tax
Officials from throughout Leavenworth County are gearing up for an April referendum that seeks to renew the 1 percent countywide sales tax.
At a meeting last week in Lansing, county commissioners and representatives of the county's cities discussed ways to educate the public about why they think the tax needs to be renewed.
In 1996, voters approved collection of a 1-cent sales tax to build the Justice Center in Leavenworth and pay for various projects in each of the cities in Leavenworth County. In 2004, the tax generated more than $5 million in revenue for the county and its cities.
The tax expires in 2007.
Renewal of the tax "is probably one of the most important things to ever face Leavenworth County," Clyde Graeber, newly elected County Commission chairman, said earlier this month.
Lansing Mayor Kenneth Bernard is putting together a presentation, complete with computer graphics, that officials will deliver to civic and social clubs throughout the county and "anybody else who will listen" to promote renewal of the tax.
In Lansing, which receives more than $500,000 annually from the tax, the money has been used to fund economic development measures, street maintenance, the Gilman Road sewer interceptor and improvements to West Gilman Road, all of which have been completed, and improvement of Eisenhower Road between Main Street and Kansas Highway 5, which is ongoing.
If the tax is renewed, Lansing has proposed to use its share of the receipts for:
¢ Expansion of City Hall, including the addition of a library
¢ Extension of Gilman Road from Kansas Highway 7 to De Soto Road
¢ De Soto Road improvements from 4-H Road to Eisenhower Road
¢ Creation of a city park
¢ Economic development
¢ Infrastructure work.
The Lansing City Council will be asked this week to adopt a resolution delineating those uses.
One of the plans discussed at last week's meeting of city and county officials was for each of the cities to similarly define their use of sales tax funds.
County commissioners have talked about road improvements and property tax reduction as uses for the county's share of the tax.
Officials said the alternative to a sales tax increase would be additional property taxes or a cut in public services.
Lansing City Administrator Mike Smith said the sales tax put less of a burden on county residents.
"The good thing about it is people from outside the city pay when they come shopping here or anywhere else in the county," he said.
Graeber, speaking earlier this month at a Legislative Breakfast in Lansing, said convincing residents of the need to vote for renewal of the tax would not be easy.
"It's going to be a tough sell," he said.
The April vote will coincide with a school bond referendum in Lansing. Also due in April is the Kansas Legislature's plan to fix the state's public school funding formula, which also could mean a tax increase for residents.
"How many tax increases are the people going to say, 'Yeah, we're going to do it'?" Graeber asked.
County officials will meet again to discuss the issue at 4 p.m. Thursday at Lansing City Hall.