Voters in Independence and Clay County will decide important sales tax questions on Tuesday’s ballot. Independence wants to make a street improvement tax permanent, while a Clay County group seeks money for a children’s services fund.
We remain skeptical about sales taxes, which hurt the poor. In this case, though, both measures deserve voters’ support.
Question 1 in Independence asks voters to extend an existing half-cent sales tax for streets, curbs, sidewalks and bridge repair. It wouldn’t raise taxes; this would make the existing tax permanent so that voters don’t have to consider the levy every five or 10 years.
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The tax raises about $8.4 million annually. About $5 million goes for basic overlay work. The rest is used for intersection improvements, traffic signals and the like. Some snow removal is in there, as well.
Maintaining streets is a basic city service and one that must be paid for. The tax does that. We like the transparency of the tax, too: Independence residents can see each year where their money is going.
Generally, we prefer taxes that go before voters periodically. In this case, though, the service is so basic the city would be forced to find the money somewhere else if voters rejected the tax.
We urge them not to do so. Instead, we recommend a yes vote on Question 1 in Independence.
Clay County voters will consider a quarter-cent sales tax increase to provide money for a children’s service fund. It’s Proposition 1 on the Clay County ballot.
Supporters say the tax would raise about $8 million a year. A special board would be established to distribute the funds to various agencies addressing the needs of at-risk youth: counseling, housing, training and more.
It’s an important need. Clay County officials tell us hundreds of at-risk teenagers lack mental health treatment, housing and other services, all for lack of funding. Many of those teenagers end up in the criminal justice system, where costs are higher — not to mention the resulting disruption in their lives and the lives of their victims.
There is concern the money will be allocated without proper oversight. We disagree. We expect the people of Clay County — and officials with the state of Missouri, which authorizes the tax — to keep a close eye on spending and results. An annual audit would help.
Other counties have started collecting taxes for children’s services. Jackson County voters approved a similar tax in November, generating $15 million yearly.
Clay County has demonstrated the need for its own children’s fund. The Star recommends a yes vote Tuesday on Proposition 1 in Clay County.