Sales tax renewal passes easily

4/3/2013

Approval extends half-cent sales tax another 10 years.

Approval extends half-cent sales tax another 10 years.

By SCOTT AUST

saust@gctelegram.com

Garden City voters overwhelmingly approved a 10-year extension of the city's half-cent sales tax on Tuesday, with 1,327 voting yes and only 252 opposed.

City Manager Matt Allen was surprised by the margin and a little bit anxious about whether the message had sunk into the community about what the tax was, what it would pay for, what services are impacted or projects that had been accomplished.

"It appeared to be a low voter turnout, and you just don't know. There's a certain percentage that will react to the word, 'tax,' regardless of what it's for or what might be impacted," he said. "I was wondering to what degree that would affect this, but we seemed to get a message out that has resonated with this community for at least 20 years and looks like it still does today."

For nearly 20 years, Garden City has used the sales tax to help keep property taxes low and pay for transportation improvements. Without an extension, the city's sales tax would have expired in October 2015, and the city could have been faced with some combination of increased property taxes or large cuts in services.

In 2013 dollars, the half-cent sales tax is expected to generate about $2.8 million, the property tax equivalent of about 17 mills. On a $150,000 home, 17 mills would represent nearly $300 additional property tax dollars had the sales tax expired.

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

By approving the reauthorization Tuesday, voters decided to extend the tax through 2025.

Allen said his observation is the result shows the community has a strong preference to use sales tax over property tax.

"Also woven into that is I think people are pleased with the projects that have been done, and they're pleased with the general government services that were identified, particularly police, fire and Lee Richardson Zoo, parks and street, which were the major impacted departments in the general fund," he said.

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