Sales tax extension placed on April ballot
By SCOTT AUST
Voters will get to decide in April whether to extend Garden City’s half-cent sales tax into 2025 or let it expire in 2015.
On Tuesday, the Garden City Commission agreed to place the sales tax question on the April 2 municipal election ballot.
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 expire in October 2015 and the city would likely be faced with some combination of increased property taxes or large cuts in services.
Voters authorized the tax initially in 1994 to address road repair and maintenance, then reauthorized it in 2005 for another 10 years to help reduce the city mill levy in addition to financing transportation improvements. This April’s election would be the last time to put a reauthorization on the ballot without a special election before adopting the 2015 budget.
If voters approve, the tax would be extended to 2025.
In 2012, the half-cent sales tax generated $2.75 million, the property tax equivalent in 2013 of 16.97 mills.
City Manager Matt Allen said staff will prepare information about how sales tax revenue has been used over the years as part of a campaign to educate voters about the issue. However, by state law the city can’t actively take a position on the ballot issue.
“The law doesn’t allow us to campaign to ‘vote yes’ or ‘vote no’ on an issue. But we can get some education out there about what the tax is used for. We’ll be getting out there to make sure voters have a good understanding of the issue before them,” he said.
Commissioners pointed out that approval will not increase the city’s share of local sales taxes. Overall, people buying goods and services within Garden City pay an 8.45 percent sales tax. The state collects 6.3 percent, Finney County and Garden City each collect 1 percent, and .15 percent is for Horse Thief Reservoir management project.
In other business Tuesday:
• Garden City resident Landon Lukens asked the panel to consider adopting an ordinance that would allow micro utility vehicles to operate on public streets within the city limits.
Lukens said some of the uses he envisions is a vehicle that is more fuel efficient than an average car to travel around the city in to run errands and general travel.
“I’m not expecting any special privileges with these vehicles. They would still require legal turn signals, headlights, brake lights. They would follow the same rules as a car,” Lukens said. “I haven’t been on a public roadway yet, but we’re talking about a vehicle that’s also used for farm and ranch work, but would also be very efficient within town.”
Lukens said Dodge City adopted an ordinance allowing the vehicles a few years ago. Dodge City’s ordinance defines the micro utility vehicle as one that is not less than 48 inches wide, not more than 144 inches long, weighs at least 1,500 pounds, has a metal cab and can reach speeds of 40 miles per hour. Dodge City also requires operators to have a driver’s license, carry motor vehicle insurance and a license plate.
The commission postponed a decision but asked city counselor Randy Grisell to prepare potential ordinance language that they can review at a future meeting.
• Commissioners recognized Megan Powers, a seventh-grader at Kenneth Henderson Middle School, whose essay, “If I Were Mayor,” was named the winner in the southwest region of the Kansas League of Municipalities essay contest. Powers received a check for $125 and will have her essay published in an upcoming edition of the Kansas Government Journal.
• Commissioners authorized the Mayor to proclaim the week of March 3-9 as Problem Gambling Awareness week at the request of the Finney County Community Health Coalition and the Southwest Kansas Problem Gambling Task Force. The goal is to promote awareness about the social and economic impact problem gambling has on individuals.
• Commissioners authorized the mayor to proclaim Feb. 23 as TRiO Day in Garden City at the request of Garden City Community College to recognized the role TRiO programs plan in preparing students from disadvantage backgrounds to excel in educational efforts. Locally, more than 800 students participate in TRiO programs.
• Commissioners adopted an ordinance establishing a Rural Housing Incentive District for a housing development located near Anderson and Mac streets, which includes six residential lots with three single-family homes and three duplex multi-family structures containing six total units.
• Commissioners approved the 2013 calendar of fundraising events from the Friends of Lee Richardson Zoo, including June 10 Blues at the Zoo concert event; June 22 Global Bazaar; Sept. 7 A Wild Affair; and Oct. 19 Boo! At The Zoo.