Kansas City’s Reverse Robin Hood
The poor in Kansas City face a double hit: We are generally a high tax city, and development policy ignores the poorer east side. To make matters worse, the taxes in the poorer part of the city are higher than they are elsewhere. The map to the right shows a portion of Kansas City from Crown Center to the north, Waldo to the south, State Line Road to the west, and Interstate 435 to the east. The location of the three Aldi grocery stores are marked with a shopping cart. The sales tax charged at each location—gathered from shopping receipts and Jackson County—is listed next to each store.
The Aldi in Gladstone, Missouri, just outside the city limits to the north, is not shown on the map. It charges only 4.725 percent sales tax. Again, that was no surprise because Kansas City is generally a high tax city.
The stores in Waldo and East Brookside to the south both charge 5.85 percent sales tax. The Aldi to the north, supposedly in the middle of a food desert but definitely in the poorer part of town, charges 6.35 percent sales tax.
The reason for this higher rate is the Independence Avenue Community Improvement District (CID), which collects an additional .5 percent tax on top of the existing sales tax. This means that the tax rate on unprepared food such as groceries is 6.35 percent; for restaurants it is 11.35 percent. According to their website, the purpose of the CID is:
to provide for enhanced and reliable improvements, security, services and activities, such as general maintenance of public areas, continued efforts to address area beautification related issues, as well as other concerns within the Independence Avenue corridor not already receiving such services.
It used to be that security, general maintenance, and beautification were addressed by the police, public works, and the parks department. As the city fails to provide these basic services, neighborhoods step in and do it themselves. As a result, the poorest neighborhoods, where the need is greatest and the ability to pay lowest, pay higher taxes.