Judge upholds new streetcar taxing district

Jackson County Circuit Judge Charles Atwell today upheld Kansas City's proposal for a new special taxing district to support a downtown streetcar system.

Atwell said the proposed district is not legally defective or illegal.

He also found that the district is not an undue burden on any property owner within the district and is not unjust or unreasonable. Some downtown property owners have asked why the city proposed increasing taxes just downtown, rather than citywide, to pay for the streetcars. The city responded that this area will get the biggest benefit from a new streetcar route.

The new taxes still must be approved in a special election later this year by registered voters living within the district boundaries. Some property owners have complained that, since they don't live in the district, they don't get a vote and this is "taxation without representation." But Atwell said it is not a violation of the Missouri Constitution to have a vote that does not extend to nonresident property owners.

Atwell said this means that the Circuit Court Administrator shall see that mail-in ballots are sent to registered voters within the proposed boundaries of the taxing district. People can apply to the court from April 30 to May 22 for a ballot. Those mail-in ballots will be mailed on June 19 and must be returned by July 31. Costs of that election shall be borne by the city.

This first election would affirm creation of the district, and the maximum taxes proposed. The actual tax increases would have to be affirmed in a second election later this year, once the city knows if it is getting a crucial $25 million federal grant for the project, and whether it plans to proceed quickly with this new streetcar system.