Kansas City’s unique one-eighth-cent sales tax for improvements along the Prospect Avenue corridor on the East side is off to a disappointing start.
Yet the committee charged with disbursing the funds has yet to formally recommend any spending on specific projects. In fact, the committee just announced it’s finally accepting proposals for use of the tax, which should eventually raise $10 million annually.
The deadline for proposals is Aug. 2. The committee will comb through the applications, with recommendations sent to the City Council for final consideration.
That suggests actual spending won’t begin until the end of this year, or early in 2019.
By contrast, the general obligation bonds approved in the same election are already providing funds for projects across the city.
No one in Kansas City wants the committee to rush its decision-making, or to spend money just to spend it. Focused deliberation is essential.
At the same time, the tax takes money from the pockets of people who spend in Kansas City, including the poor. The funds don’t help anyone if they sit in a bank, waiting for neighborhood leaders and politicians to make up their minds.
Board members and others connected with the tax say there has been public disagreement over how the money should be spent. There were also a few bureaucratic squabbles, which is not a surprise.
Public meetings improved transparency but led to disputes over spending priorities.
Now there is a general consensus that the funds should be targeted at existing and new businesses creating jobs in the corridor — roughly between The Paseo and Indiana, from Ninth Street to Gregory Boulevard.
Creating jobs is an important objective. So are affordable housing, public safety and public spaces such as sidewalks and parks. We’re confident the tax can be used to jump-start a broader recovery in the Prospect corridor if it’s spent wisely.
The delay in spending the funds isn’t fatal by any means. But Kansas Citians are closely watching the tax — if it works as intended, the concept might be extended to other distressed neighborhoods in the future.
We endorsed the tax when voters approved it. We still support it. Even the best tools aren’t worth much, though, if they’re sitting in the toolbox.
It’s time to put at least some of the sales tax money on the street. The end of 2018 is a reasonable deadline for achieving that goal.