A question on the April 4 ballot will test whether voters throughout Kansas City support a 10-year sales tax increase, targeted at East Side economic development.
The City Council agreed Thursday to place the citizens petition initiative on the April ballot. Some council members said that didn’t mean they support the idea, but they were required under the city charter to put the measure to voters, because a grass-roots group collected enough petition signatures to qualify for the ballot.
Promoters of the sales tax increase say it’s time for the entire city to help provide funding to lift up the most neglected part of town.
“It’s good for the overall city to have a strong core,” said Vernon Howard Jr., president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference of Greater Kansas City, who helped lead the petition drive along with members of the Urban Summit and other African-American community groups.
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The proposal seeks a one-eighth-cent citywide sales tax increase for 10 years, to support economic development projects in the area bounded by Ninth Street and Gregory Boulevard and by the Paseo and Indiana Avenue. It is believed to be the first citywide sales tax increase that would be spent only in a particular part of town. A five-member board, appointed by the mayor and City Council, would help recommend how the tax proceeds would be spent.
The proposal would raise about $8 million per year. The original petition sought a 30-year tax, but the council amended that part of the ballot language Thursday to just 10 years.
City Councilwoman Katheryn Shields said the petition leaders agreed to reduce the timeframe from 30 to 10 years. She said most Kansas City sales tax increases that garner voter approval are generally for a relatively short period of time, and then if they are successful, they can always be renewed.