A ballot proposal for a citywide sales tax increase to support East Side development will have to wait for Kansas City Council approval.
The council’s finance committee considered the petition initiative Wednesday but postponed a decision because the people seeking the tax increase weren’t present to explain their initiative.
A coalition of East Side advocates collected sufficient signatures for their proposal, seeking voter approval next April for a citywide, one-eighth-cent sales tax increase for 30 years. It would raise about $8.5 million per year, or more than $300 million over the 30 years for economic development projects within the area bounded by Ninth Street and Gregory Boulevard and between the Paseo and Indiana Avenue.
Petitioners didn’t show up for Wednesday’s committee meeting. Vernon Howard, a spokesman for the group, said they had not received any formal notification about the meeting but would be present at the next meeting, Dec. 7, to testify.
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They have said in the past that East Side residents have supported other city tax increases for years without seeing sufficient economic investment in their own neighborhoods.
Their proposal calls for a five-member appointed board to recommend how the money would be spent, and the final decision would rest with the City Council.
Finance staff told the committee that this would be the only citywide sales tax targeted for a particular area of town.
City Attorney Bill Geary told the finance committee that he reviewed the proposal and sees no legal reason the council should keep it off the ballot.
“I believe the ordinance is lawful,” he said.
The city has authority under state law to impose, with voter approval, up to a half-cent sales tax for economic development, so this one-eighth-cent would fall within that authorization.
Committee chairman Scott Wagner said the vast majority of the 1,700 petition signatures came from south of the Missouri River, with only three signatures from Platte County and 12 from Clay County. He said it was troubling to him that the petitioners had not shown up to explain their plan. He said he wanted to have that hearing with petitioners before council approval for the ballot measure.
The council must act by Jan. 19 to place an item on the April ballot.