Archive for Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Council considers sales tax renewals

May 30, 2012

The Bonner Springs City Council seems to be in support of renewing two current special sales taxes when they expire.

The council Tuesday discussed the quarter-cent sales taxes, the Emergency Services tax and the Aquatic Center tax, in a workshop before its regular meeting. The Emergency Services tax, which expires in September of next year, would continue in its current purpose with voter approval, and the council is considering asking voters to renew the Aquatic Center tax to be used for capital improvement projects.

John Helin, city manager, said the benefit of the sales taxes is that they are funded by everyone who purchases products in Bonner Springs, not just by city residents. Rather than asking for new taxes or a property tax increase, this would continue the level of sales taxes to which people have become accustomed.

He explained the Emergency Services sales tax was passed with 62 percent voter approval with a September 2013 sunset. He asked if the council would support placing a renewal of the tax on the November 2012 ballot.

Helin said he thought the city could easily prove to voters that the tax has been worthwhile, as it has allowed the city to purchase better safety equipment. “It’s worked out really well for us,” he said. “… The big thing is we still have 11 years left to pay the debt on the EMS building.”

If the sales tax were not continued, the city would have to find other ways to pay debt on the building, completed two years ago. The debt payments would be the equivalent of a 4.51-mill levy increase, Helin said.

City staff recommended putting the Emergency Services tax on the November ballot so that if it didn’t pass, the city could try again on its April 2013 ballot before the tax expires. With the presidential election, more voters are likely to vote in November, as well.

“Is that good or bad, I don’t know, you can decide,” Helin said. “You may get more naysayers who don’t want it.”

But council members present gave the potential renewal of the tax a unanimous thumbs-up.

Helin then asked the council to consider bringing back the Aquatic Park sales tax in some form by putting it on the April 2013 city ballot, either at the current quarter-cent rate or possibly a lower rate.

The tax was approved in November 2004 to raise $3.5 million or last 10 years, whichever came first. City staff projects the tax will expire before it reaches the 10-year mark in Fall 2013 based on current sales tax receipts.

Helin suggested that if the tax were renewed, it could be dedicated to capital improvements, particularly roads, so its use was up to the discretion of the council.

Other needs include a pool for small children at the aquatic center and improvements at the Lions Park ball fields, or even helping fund a new police station in the future.

The tax currently brings in about $440,000 per year, the equivalent of 7.1 mills in property taxes. Helin said he would plan further discussion at a future workshop.

“Your homework is: think about it,” he told the council.

“I already like it,” Council member Bob Reeves said.

If renewed, state statute limits both special sales taxes to a 10-year period.

Council member George Cooper did not attend the meeting.

In other business, the council:

• Discussed the removal and reinstallation of a portion of the K-7 bridge water line in a workshop. About 40 feet of the line, installed in 1984, will have to be removed over the summer as the Kansas Department of Transportation works on the bridge. The city must cover the estimated $80,000 costs as the waterline is in KDOT’s right of way.

• Discussed the police department’s standard response protocol program with the school district in a workshop.

• Accepted the Tree City USA Award from the Bonner Beautiful Commission.

• Approved the consent agenda.

• Discussed Helin’s list of proposed safety improvements for Kansas Highway 7, which will be sent to KDOT.

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