The Garden City Telegram
2/23/2013
OPINIONS AND COMMENTARY

City deal

Half-cent helps community meet needs, ease tax burden.

Since the mid-1990s, Garden City has put proceeds from a half-cent sales tax to good use.

On April 2, local voters will decide whether to extend that tax.

They should. Considering the return, it's been a reasonable investment.

Over the years, the funds have fueled major transportation improvements — namely street and airport projects — and helped keep city property taxes in check.

Voters first authorized the tax in 1994 to address road repair and maintenance, and reauthorized it in 2005 for another decade to help reduce the city mill levy, along with financing transportation improvements.

The half-cent represents a small slice of the 8.45 percent sales tax collected locally: the state takes 6.3 percent; Finney County and Garden City each receive 1 percent; and .15 percent goes to the HorseThief Reservoir management project.

The city's budgeted revenue for 2013 for the half-cent sales tax was $2.75 million, the same value as 16.73 mills.

If voters choose to end the half-cent tax, the city would be left to pursue some combination of higher property taxes or cuts in services. Beyond road maintenance, such important areas as the police and fire departments also could be vulnerable, unfortunately.

While no one likes taxes, reasonable citizens know they're necessary. A decline in services would hurt, and putting off work on roads and other infrastructure only leads to more significant costs down the line.

It's also worth noting that a considerable portion of sales tax dollars generated locally come from people who live outside the community.

Considering retail growth ahead, why not let visitors help pay for our necessities, and help keep local property taxes in check?

Those who would oppose the plan for any reason should acknowledge the half-cent tax goes to support legitimate needs in the city, rather than "wants" difficult to embrace in challenging economic times. Plus, it's not a tax increase, as the current rate would remain the same.

The strategy paid off when first pursued in the 1990s, and in the years that followed. With the added benefit of local property tax relief, it makes even more sense today.