Olathe considers putting park sales tax extension on ballot

07/16/2014 1:00 PM

07/16/2014 1:00 PM

The Olathe City Council will decide Aug. 5 whether to ask voters to renew the 1/8 cent park sales tax for the next 10 years.

The council agreed on Tuesday night to move forward with preparations to place the question on the ballot for the Nov. 4 election.

Voters renewed the sales tax for 10 years in 2004 and was in effect five years before that. It will expire in March unless it is renewed. The council must act in August in order to meet the Sept. 1 filing deadline for the November election.

If approved, 63 percent of the tax would go toward building new facilities; 21 percent would be used to repair the city’s walking and biking trail system, parks and sports fields; and 16 percent would be used for enhancements.

The work would include completing the final phases of Lone Elm Park and Stagecoach Park, adding 10 miles of trail connections to the 17 existing miles of trails and green space and renovating older parks, including Prairie Center, Black Bob, Lake Olathe, Cedar Lake and Oregon Trail.

Several council members favored allowing voters to decide whether to renew the tax. Councilwoman Marge Vogt said constituents have expressed appreciation for the progress made on parks facilities as a result of the tax. “I do think, however, they would appreciate the opportunity to vote on it,” she said.

“We owe it to the voters to let them decide,” agreed Councilman Wes McCoy. “It will be either a thumbs up or a thumbs down, but it should be up to citizens to make that decision.”

Olathe Parks and Recreation director Michael Meadors said most citizens surveyed favor park improvements and new facilities.

An independent survey conducted in May indicated the majority of voters would vote to renew the tax for another 10 years. Sixty-two percent favored maintaining and repairing existing parks and 44 percent indicated support for building parks in new areas that don’t have them. Fifty percent favored connecting existing trails.

On Tuesday night the council also reviewed the proposed 2015 budgets for water & sewer, solid waste, storm water, transportation sales tax and recreation funds as well as the 2015-2019 capital projects related to these funds and the 2015 proposed fees. The council is scheduled to approve the 2015 budget on Aug. 19.

The proposed 2015 budget calls for a 4.7 increase in water rates and a 7.9 percent increase in sewer rates. Citizens would see a $4 increase in their monthly bills. The increases would pay for capital maintenance projects.

The 2015 proposed general fund operating budget tentatively sits at $83.4 million, which is an increase of nearly 5 percent from the 2014 budget of $79.4 million.

No mill levy increase is proposed and there aren’t many significant changes or new programs. The budget’s main focus is maintaining the city’s aging infrastructure. Street improvements are a top priority.

A budget hearing is scheduled for Aug. 5 before the council votes on the budget on Aug. 19.

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