Ballots go out today regarding a plan by Olathe officials to dramatically improve street maintenance.
The Star recommends a “yes” vote on a 10-year, three-eighths-cent sales tax increase because the city has a detailed proposal to fix a public asset that so many people depend on every day.
The tax would raise just over $9.2 million a year. Add that to the city’s current road maintenance fund, and Olathe could repair almost 150 lane miles of street a year. That’s 100 percent of the city’s needs.
“We’re selling quality of life in Olathe,” City Manager Michael Wilkes said in an interview, adding that well-maintained roads help attract residents and businesses.
Olathe’s population has more than doubled in the last 20 years, from 63,000 to around 130,000. The city is responsible for taking care of far more miles of streets than it once was. Meanwhile, cracks in older roads need to be sealed or resurfaced with new asphalt.
The city considered but rejected a property tax increase. It would have been a fairly large burden and only on Olathe homeowners and businesses.
The sales tax will be paid by Olathe residents but also by visitors who use the city’s streets, a common argument used by cities that want to share some of the fiscal pain of paying for infrastructure upgrades.
The problem with ignoring crumbling streets is obvious: At some point they can’t be fixed but need to be completely replaced. That’s far more expensive than a fiscally responsible street maintenance program.
Olathe officials have put such a program together. Voters have good reasons to approve the tax increase in the mail-in election, which lasts until Nov. 12.