Harrisonville asking for half-cent tax increase

bbashioum@demo-mo.comMarch 28, 2014 

Harrisonville leaders are hoping voters will approve a transportation sales tax to make a variety of street, sidewalk and storm water improvements.

The proposed half-cent increase would generate roughly $1 million annually and expire after 10 years.

“We’ve identified some projects that we thought would be important,” Public Works Director Jerry Gibbs said.

The public works committee has identified six streets to be reconstructed:

• Mechanic Street, from Independence to Stella. (Full-depth construction, widen to three lanes and stripe, install sidewalks).

• E. Elm Street/Cemetery Road, from Mechanic Street to the city limits. (Full-depth construction, widen to two driving lanes and one parking lane, stripe, install sidewalks).

• Jefferson Parkway, from Locust Street to Waters Road. (Full-depth construction, widen to two driving lanes and one parking lane, stripe, install sidewalks).

• King Street, from Mechanic Street to Ash Street. (Full-depth reconstruction, widen to residential-standard width where possible, install sidewalks).

• W. Wall Street, from Oakland Street to Independence Street. (Full-depth reconstruction, widen to residential-standard width where possible, install sidewalks).

• E. Washington, from S. Independence Street to S. Highland Drive. (Full-depth reconstruction, widen to residential-standard width where possible, install sidewalks).

“A lot of these things were picked for safety,” Street Superintendent Rodney Jacobs said of the list priority improvements, noting narrow streets and no sidewalks.

The proposal also includes a budgeted $200,000 annually to resurface every road in the city over the 10-year time-frame of the project.

The Jefferson Parkway project would top $3 million alone in repairs.

“We tried to look at the roads that would have the most impact,” Gibbs said. “We would also cover every street with some type of surface treatment. The half-cent sales tax would benefit all of the citizens - not just those using the particular streets that we’ve identified to get curbs and be rebuilt.”

Overall, the city says it has about $25 million in projects that need to be done.

“We are trying to stretch and leverage the dollars the best we can,” Gibbs said.

Gibbs said passage of question would enable the city to free up some of their capital improvement fund to fix an aged storm water system. The committee felt the 10-year time frame would allow the city the opportunity to plan and complete a significant amount of improvements, in hopes of looking to residents to extend the tax after it would expire.

A similar issue to the transportation sales tax proposal was taken to voters in 2001, but failed. If voters approve the measure, the projects would begin in 2015, according to City Administrator Keith Moody.

“It’s a pay-as-you-go program,” Moody said. “We’re not looking to borrow any money.”

Passage of the question requires a simple majority.

“I think the residents have voted in support of sales tax initiatives where they see the value,” Moody said.

In more recent years, Harrisonville voters have approved sales tax increases to add law enforcement and fire personnel, and to build the community center and aquatic center.

“Residents have a track record of being supportive of initiatives funded by using sales tax,” Moody said.

Despite some public skepticism, the city has promised to follow through with the projects laid out in their the plan for this half-cent sales tax. However, Harrisonville resident Brian Hasek has been leading an initiative against the tax increase.

“They have not put their spending in check before they ask people for more money,” Hasek said. “It’s a common theme in all levels of government.”

Hasek is also telling voters to not support the tax because while they repeatedly turned down the city’s initiatives to raise taxes to build a new police station, the city managed to find money from the general fund to construct a new law enforcement facility. He believes the drain on funds has left a damper on what money could have been used to improve roads.

“This administration have adopted some policies that have put the city into some debt,” Hasek said.

Hasek doesn’t think the roads are in bad condition, and disapproves that the city administrator-led the initiative to put the issue on the ballot – not citizens.

If approved, Harrisonville would also still have a lower sales tax rate than Belton and Raymore.

Under the new rate, for every $5,000 spent in a year on taxable items, an individual would pay an additional $25 in sales tax.

The sales tax rate in Harrisonville is currently set at 7.85 percent; 8.85 percent within the city’s community improvement and transportation development districts.

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